Since the lockout began, there have been a variety of charity games and other competition exhibitions organized that have included NBA players throughout the summer.
But now with the scheduled start of the NBA season growing closer and the lockout still continuing, players are looking for a higher level of competition, and are heading to Las Vegas to get their fix.
No, I'm not talking about the Rookie Summer League; "Impact Basketball," located in Vegas, is assembling up to 70-80 NBA players for a more intense training series.
New York Knicks players Chauncey Billups, Shawne Williams, Roger Mason Jr., Jared Jeffries, and rookies Iman Shumpert and Josh Harrellson are all scheduled to take the court during the competition.
The mix of Knicks participating is an interesting group, to say the least. Shumpert has been working hard all summer in preparation for his rookie year, and seems to be in prime shape, so it's no surprise he'll be there. It's also good to see that Harrellson is looking to see how he matches up to legitimate NBA talent as well.
As a Vice President of the Players Union, Mason Jr. knows that labor talks are ongoing, and that things can change in just a matter of time: he, Williams, and Jeffries are all free agents heading into next season, and will be looking for contracts once an agreement to end the lockout is reached.
Billups, the Knicks' floor general, is perhaps the most surprising player from the group to have joined the league. An NBA champion and multi-time all-star, he is one of the most established participants, and will certainly headline the group in Vegas. He also had to bow out of the Knicks' playoffs series against the Celtics after game one due to an injury. Just recently cleared for basketball activities, Billups' participation could be looked at with optimism or complete caution.
Should he be assuming such physical competition so soon, especially in the off-season, or should Billups be taking it easy at this point? The fact that he is preparing to test himself against some of the NBA's better talent in Vegas could mean that not only is he looking to get better, but also looking to test his healthy body against solid competition. Overall, if he's been cleared to go by a doctor, I say it's a positive thing that Billups is looking for a tune-up (perhaps the best he can get) before the season gets going.
One of the bigger surprises for the Knicks last season, Williams took time to speak with HOOPSWORLD about how he's been preparing for next season, his participation in Impact Basketball's league, and more. Read this great piece by my man Alex Kennedy and check out the clip below.