By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
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.