O'Neal, Bradley among Impact League players

191544.jpg

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.

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

MORE:

But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."