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Posted: Wednesday August 24, 2011 8:30PM ; Updated: Thursday August 25, 2011 7:12PM

Vegas summer league to provide latest distraction from lockout

Story Highlights

Impact owner and trainer Joe Abunassar is hosting a league for locked-out players

The NBA-only league could feature more than 50 players, including Blake Griffin

The league's regular season begins on Sept. 12 and will likely last two weeks

By Sam Amick, SI.com

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Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant could be one of the many locked-out players to flock to Las Vegas.
AP

Las Vegas summer league is alive and well after all.

Sort of.

While the NBA's official summer league was canceled in July as a result of the lockout, more than 50 players will be descending on Sin City to take part in a league at Impact Academy, starting on Sept. 12. And while the labor gap between owners and players means an actual season is likely still many months away, the Vegas session that was first reported by Hoopsworld will have the feel of an unofficial training camp for a number of teams.

Call it Phase II of lockout life for the players. While ventures such as these won't provide much-needed leverage in the nearly nonexistent negotiations with the league's owners, they will certainly help when it comes to staying in shape during the prolonged work stoppage.

According to Impact owner and renowned trainer Joe Abunassar, the Clippers' Blake Griffin, Mo Williams and Randy Foye came by last week and expressed a desire to enter the league with a team made up solely of their teammates. Oklahoma City center Nazr Mohammed is trying to convince Kevin Durant, James Harden and others to do the same, while Indiana's Dahntay Jones and Denver's Al Harrington are making similar pitches to their respective teams.

While Pro-Am and street ball leagues such as the Los Angeles' Drew and D.C.'s Goodman have given NBA types a place to play in recent months, Abunassar plans on taking it to a whole new level. The key difference is the NBA-only rule, as most Pro-Am leagues allow players who play collegiate or internationally as well.

A few more details for hoops fans looking for their next distraction from the lockout:

• Games will be played in the afternoons and evenings, Monday through Friday for two weeks starting Sept. 12, with playoffs to follow thereafter.

• Abunassar is envisioning a maximum of eight teams in the league with seven players per team.

• Other players mentioned by Abunassar as being involved are the "20 guys who are already working out" at the academy, which include Memphis' Rudy Gay, Washington's John Wall, Phoenix's Jared Dudley, New York's Chauncey Billups, and Houston's Kyle Lowry. Memphis forward Zach Randolph, who continues to deal with the fallout of an alleged drug-related assault at his home in West Linn, Ore., called to reserve his spot on Wednesday.

• According to Abunassar, it remains undecided whether the public will be able to watch for free at his facility or possibly be charged with the proceeds going to charities of the players' choice. There may be a need to move to a larger venue as well, and the games may be streamed online.

• The officiating is expected to be based on NBA rules and there will be a 24-second shot clock.

• Abunassar has spoken with National Basketball Players Association president/Lakers guard Derek Fisher and vice president/Knicks guard Roger Mason about the league and been given their support.

"It's a natural deal," Abunassar said. "Guys want to play, so this is a great service for guys. It keeps them in shape. They don't mind coming to Vegas. The difference between what we're doing and what other leagues are doing is that all five guys on the floor will be pros.

"It'll keep them in shape. It's a good thing for the NBPA."

 
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