O'Neal, Bradley among Impact League players

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O'Neal, Bradley among Impact League players

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn

NBA fans won't have to wait until the players union and owners reach a new deal before seeing some of the game's best play against one another.

More than 60 NBA players - a group that includes current Boston Celtics Jermaine O'Neal and Avery Bradley - will be in Las Vegas next week to participate in the inaugural Impact Basketball League.

The league is set to begin play on Monday, with four games scheduled every two hours beginning at 4:30 p.m. Games will be played until Thursday, then resume Monday through Friday the week of the 19th.

Never before in the offseason have so many great players come together to train and play," said Joe Abunassar, founder of Impact Basketball, who is widely considered one of the top training and development experts among NBA players. "I am thrilled to be able to provide our world-class training environment and system to so many great players.

In addition to O'Neal and Bradley, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have also spent some time working out and playing games at the Impact Basketball facility. It is unclear if they will join the league this summer, although Impact officials have said that players not on the original list of participants may be added.

"This will be an amazing two weeks for all of us NBA players who have been working and training hard all summer to get together and have a chance to really get after it on the court against some of the best players in the league," said former Celtic guard and current New York Knick, Chauncey Billups.

The league, which will have a limited number of tickets available at the will-call window of the Impact ticket office, comes about at a time when there's significant uncertainty about when - if at all - will the players have training camp.

When the players union and the owners couldn't reach a deal on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement this summer, players were locked out when the deal expired on July 1.

Both sides met sparingly this summer.

In fact, Wednesday's meeting in New York was just the third since the July 1 lockout. Both sides met again on Thursday.

And while none of the key figures have sounded overly optimistic that a deal was imminent, the fact that both sides have been more willing to sit down and talk - and now, they want to bring in more people to talk - bodes well for the league avoiding just the second work stoppage in its history.

Between now and getting a deal done, players will do their best to stay in shape whenever the time comes to resume playing.

Part of that conditioning includes participating in events such as the Impact Basketball league which will feature only NBA players as well as players in the league who are free agents.

Here's a list of all the players who have agreed to be in the league: Chauncey Billups; Al Harrington; Kyle Lowry; Dahntay Jones; James Anderson; Marresse Speights; Melvin Ely; Jermaine O'Neal; Jared Dudley; Alan Anderson; Austin Daye; JJ Hickson; John Wall; Zach Randolph; Wesley Matthews; Shelvin Mack; Stephen Jackson; Iman Shumpert; Derek Caracter; Shawne Williams; Jimmy Butler; Mo Williams; Roger Mason; Travis Leslie; Josh Selby; Sebastian Telfair; CJ Watson; Armon Johnson; Avery Bradley; Jared Jeffries; Demar Derozen; Jamaal Tinsley; Jordan Williams; Malcolm Lee; Ekpe Udoh; Bonzi Wells; Al farouq Aminu; Xavier Silas; Desmond Farmer; Corey Stokes; Larry Owens; Hakim Warrick; Courtney Lee; Morris Peterson; Channing Frye; Damon Jones; Terrico White; Steph Curry; Ryan Hollins; TJ Ford; Manny Harris; Rashard Lewis; Isaiah Thomas; Larry Hughes; Jordan Hamilton; Willie Warren; Dorell Wright; Paul George; Corey Maggette; Brandon Rush; Jordan Crawford; Nick Young; Kenyon Martin; Josh Harrelson; Dominque Jones; Martell Webster; Jared Bayless; Tony Allen; Kawhi Leonard; and Jeremy Evans.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

Avery Bradley hopes to take next step on D: Defensive Player of the Year

Avery Bradley hopes to take next step on D: Defensive Player of the Year

WALTHAM, Mass. – Prior to Friday night’s Green and White Scrimmage, Celtics coach Brad Stevens made a point of having Avery Bradley honored for being named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team.
 
It was a good feeling and an award that Bradley is extremely proud of accomplishing.
 
But he wants more.
 
First-team All-Defense is nice.
 
Defensive Player of the Year?
 
Even better.
 
Prior to Saturday’s practice, Bradley’s case for being in contention for such a lofty award stems from him consistently being among the better perimeter defenders in the NBA.
 
On most game nights, Bradley is usually assigned whichever guard is the more potent scorer.
 
And in that role, Bradley has been able to establish himself as one of the toughest matchups players will face from a defender, all season.

But as good as Bradley may be as an individual defender, he knows any praise or accolades for what he does has to come with the knowledge that his teammates have also elevated their play defensively, too.
 
“Like I said, it’s hand-in-hand with how you play as an individual and your team success,” Bradley said. “How far we can go this year, hopefully I can show and the rest of my teammates can show how good we are on defense.”
 
One of the reasons Bradley was able to garner enough votes to be named to the league’s First-team defense, is due to the ringing endorsements he received from various players throughout the league.
 
Two of Bradley’s biggest supporters are Portland’s explosive backcourt tandem of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

After Boston’s 116-109 loss at Portland on March 31, McCollum tweeted out that Avery Bradley was “the best perimeter defender in the league” and added, “I don’t think it’s close.”
 
In Boston’s loss to Portland, Lillard had 14 points on 3-for-16 shooting while McCollum had 17 points on 8-for-19 shooting.
 
“Hopefully the entire NBA can believe that I’m one of the best defenders,” Bradley said.
 
 

Young one of the 'tough decisions' facing Celtics

Young one of the 'tough decisions' facing Celtics

BOSTON – Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge have conversations all the time on a wide range of topics which includes but is certainly not limited to, the Celtics players.
 
On Saturday morning the two were discussing James Young, one of the players whose future with the Green team is anything but a certainty at this point.
 
Part of the challenge in evaluating Young is that unlike most first-round picks, getting on the floor to play – big minutes in the D-League don’t count – has not been easy.
 
“He hasn’t gotten a chance to play as much as other guys and that’s hard,” Stevens said prior to Saturday’s practice.  “We see the progress here, we see the growth here. We’ll just keep chipping away.”
 
Young, drafted with the 17th overall pick in 2014, has appeared in 60 games while averaging 2.2 points, 1.1 rebounds while shooting 34.1 percent from the field and 25 percent on 3s in 8.9 minutes per game.
 
Of the 13 players drafted after Young in the first round of 2014 draft, seven have appeared in more games with nine having a higher minutes played per game average.  
 
But here’s where Young’s situation sets himself apart from the others. Five of the seven players drafted after him who have appeared in more games have never seen action in the postseason  compared to Young, who has played for nothing but playoff teams in Boston.
 
That distinction speaks volumes as to why the Celtics will be hard-pressed to make the right call when it comes to deciding Young’s fate.

“We’ve got some tough decisions at the end of the month,” Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, told Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn at the Celtics' Green and White scrimmage, which was livestreamed on CSNNE.com. “We have about five guys fighting for two spots.”
 
Young is well aware of the precarious position he’s in at camp.
 
“I haven’t been thinking much about it,” he told CSNNE.com. “I know the system very well. It’s just about playing basketball. That’s the main thing; just try to contribute.”

To Young’s credit, he did a lot of nice things on Friday that didn’t show up in the final stats but were instrumental in him being a positive contributor while on the floor. There were the deflected passes which slowed the White team down from getting into their offense quickly. He had a steal, attacked the paint and made the right pass in one sequence which led to another good pass and then a lay-up for a teammate aka the “hockey assist.” And defensively, he was solid throughout his time on the floor.
 
Said Young: “I’m just playing for the team and be myself and not let things weigh on my head; just go out and play basketball, do what I need to.”
 
In doing so, Young would create more than just a spot on the roster for himself but potentially a role off the bench.
 
And doing that would lead Ainge and Stevens into having a very different kind of conversation when it comes to Young.