‘Lockout league’ keeps NBA players on the court

John Wall is certainly racking up frequent-flier miles. Wall joined a few of his Wizards teammates, including JaVale McGee, Jordan Crawford and Rashard Lewis, in an Impact Basketball “lockout league” game on Wednesday in Las Vegas.

Wall dropped 42 points and had nine rebounds and eight assists, but his team lost 122-115. But Wall quickly boarded a plane headed back to the District and is expected to play in another NBA-player-only game on Saturday at Coolidge High School, with a 3 p.m. tipoff time.

“It’s his birthday weekend, so he’s going to be here. He’s told everybody he’s going to play,” said Hanif Hill, a longtime local trainer who helped organize Saturday’s game, which is billed as the “Clash of the Superstars.”

“I have a good rapport with these [NBA] guys. I work with them, I train them, and some of them are sitting around during this lockout talking about getting bored and wanting to play,” said Hill. “So I said, ‘Hey, let’s have a game.’ “

Hill immediately began organizing a contest that will feature Wall, Jeff Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Kemba Walker, Jarrett Jack, Michael Beasley, Greg Monroe and the one player whom no D.C.-area game should be without, Kevin Durant.

“I’ve trained Kevin on and off for about four years,” Hill said. “I know these guys are following what’s going on with the lockout, and the news doesn’t look good right now, but the main thing is that they just want to play. That’s why there’s so much interest in games like this.”

Hill partnered with Coolidge High School to host the game. To avoid issues with counterfeit tickets that plagued the Aug. 20 Goodman League-Drew League game at Trinity University, he decided that tickets will be sold only at the door.

The Clash of the Superstars is a charity event. Proceeds will go to the YMCA Calomiris Program Center, the National Capital YMCA, the Capital Elite Academy and the sickle cell foundation at Children’s National Medical Center.

“A lot of guys approached me about wanting to play in this game,” Hill said. “I have more than enough guys that wanted to be involved.”

Hill said he doesn’t see the Impact Basketball League in Las Vegas as competition, but simply another opportunity for players to organize and play in cities across the country.

“There’s what, 450 guys in the [NBA]? With maybe a handful going overseas,” Hill said. “A lot of players will stay right here as long as they can find a place where they can train and play against each other, play against other NBA guys.”

Unlike many of the summer league contests where local street players make up part of the roster, the games at this point will be made up solely of NBA players. With labor talks at a standstill after a five-hour meeting on Tuesday that brought the sides no closer to a deal, these impromptu games could be the only opportunities fans will have to see NBA players for months.

“I’m definitely going to have another game,” Hill said. “We’ll probably do one next month.”

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