The Basketball Oasis
Impact League providing competitive distraction amidst labor talks.
by Brendan Bowers
The Competitive Series being hosted by Impact Basketball at its Las Vegas facility isn’t called a “league” for a reason. There are no team names, no coaches, minimal fanfare and seemingly no rewards for winning, but none of that matters.
To the players who’ve filled the Impact Gym so far this week the motivation has been all about going hard, getting better, competing against NBA talent, and staying ready for the eventual call from training camps all over the Association.
“The games have been very competitive,” Allen said. “What I like most about playing out here is a lot of these guys play with pride. Once a guy gets scored on a couple times, the defender tends to pick up on defense, and when you get five guys doing that all at the same time it makes for a great game.”
In Game 1 on Wednesday Allen came up with one of those key defensive stops on the last possession to give his team the win. He finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds, and played alongside Mo Williams who echoed his take on the competitive nature of the games so far.
“It’s all fun, it’s all NBA guys, everybody working, the NBA lingo is all there, and it’s just getting people mentally and physically ready for training camp whenever it comes up,” Williams said. “We’re all competitive, and we all want to win. It’s a thin line because you want to make sure everybody stays healthy, you don’t want to hurt anybody intentionally, but everybody does want to play hard.
“We got the lingo that we say out here: ‘Let’s go hard man so we don’t get hurt.’ When you’re going slower, not trying to get hurt, that’s the perfect time that you will. So guys are doing a real good job of that, and definitely picking it up in the fourth quarters when it really matters.”
As far as what you could compare the competitive level of the games too, Dahntay Jones who finished with 22 points and 6 rebounds on the losing end of Game 1, offered the following description.
“There isn’t one thing to compare it too because it’s guys just trying to get back in shape, working out and trying to get better,” Jones said. “It’s not like Vegas Summer with rookies and first-year players because there’s veterans coming down and playing too, but I guess it’s a combination of the Vegas Summer League and the preseason, that’s the best way I’d describe it.”
Even though rosters are shuffled around from game to game, Jones agreed that guys still want to win while they’re out there no matter whose team they’re playing on.
“It’s still the same old pride, people don’t want to lose. It’s basically for bragging rights in general, so it’s very competitive out here.”
Which doesn’t mean this series is without its occasionally funny highlight either. Picture JJ Hickson doing his best Steve Nash impression while dribbling down the court only to launch an ally-oop off the glass to Tony Allen who finishes it off at the rim; because that happened too.
“You know I never had a big man throw the ball off the glass to me,” Allen laughingly added. “That was crazy.”
Hickson was also crazy himself throughout the game when he wasn’t imitating PGs. He finished with a line that read 34 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks, but it was his pass to Allen that had him in teammate Mo Williams’ ear for the rest of the game.
“JJ and I hadn’t connected on the two lobs I threw him, so after he threw that one to Tony he was coming back down the court trying to teach me how to do it,” Mo said. “He spent a while telling me what I’d been doing wrong.”
Which has all helped to blend with the competitive nature of the games at Impact to create a basketball oasis of sorts while labor talks intensify with Billy Hunter’s arrival in Vegas on Thursday; something that’s been a welcomed distraction to a lot of the players involved.
“It definitely is a good distraction,” Jones added. “Guys can come here and just concentrate on basketball and not worry about the other stuff. Guys don’t have to stress out about it, and they can just get here, play basketball, and let everybody else handle the other stuff.”
“I don’t think one guy in here’s worried about it,” reiterated Allen. “We gossip about it, but everybody in here knows there’s business to be taken care of and we’re just sitting here on the backend just waiting. We believe in Billy Hunter, that’s who we’re riding up under, and hopefully the League and the NBPA can come to an agreement and let the wolves out the pack.”
Allen added that he’s also confident something will get done soon too, because he doesn’t want to go overseas in search of a paycheck.
“We’re gonna get something done, I really think we will. I love the American game man, I’m staying over here until this thing’s done.”
Allen also expects to be joined by teammate Zach Randolph at Impact next week, too. He said that Z-Bo is currently in Chicago working out this week, but does plan to attend next week’s sessions at some point.
Williams, who scored 27 points to go with 5 assists on Wednesday, also told SLAMonline that he’s been working out and talking with Blake Griffin this summer, and is hopeful that Blake will dropping in for a couple games at some point too.