- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Joe Abanussar is used to having a busy summer, surrounded by NBA players. A long-time trainer and founder of Impact Basketball, he trains about 30 NBA players every summer, including Wizards point guard John Wall.

“We’ve been training John since the draft. We helped him get ready for the draft,” Abanussar said on Tuesday evening by phone from Las Vegas. Abanussar was expecting Wall, who hadn’t arrived yet.

“He’s trying to get a flight out,” Abanussar said. “He’ll play when he gets here.”

Wall is one of several Wizards players participating in what’s being nicknamed “the Lockout League,” a series of games for NBA players to be held Sept. 12-23 at the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

The Wizards players participating include Rashard Lewis, Larry Owens, Shelvin Mack and Jordan Crawford. There are eight teams, listed A through H. The Wizards are on the G team.

“It’s going very well so far. The guys are training hard. We have almost 70 NBA players who have committed to play for us,” Abanussar said.

Impact Basketball’s program and facilities include weight training and nutrition, as well as basketball, but with the NBA in lockout mode, Abanussar has taken on a new role as the organizer of a series of games to complement his regular training programs.

The players train every day from 8 a.m. until 1:30 p.m, and play games starting at 1:30, 3:30, 5:30 and 7:30.

“The summer started out as usual, when we get about 30 guys to come in here and train. But by now, they would have returned to their teams,” Abanussar said.

“Since that’s not the case this year, we put this together so the guys can have a place to train and play. The players have responded very well. They think this is a great challenge.

“There is no better way to train than to play against the other players in the league, and they get the chance to do that now. Playing actual games just takes their training to a whole new level.”

Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers has said he may put in an appearance, but made it clear that his duties as president of the players union come first, and his top priority will be representing the players in the talks to reach a new collective bargaining agreement.

“We have heard from Derek Fisher. He’s very supportive of what we’re doing. The players union supports us, because we’re doing something positive,” Abanussar said.

There has been no reaction or response from NBA commissioner David Stern or the owners on the Vegas league games.

“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 Chauncey Billups of the New York Knicks in a statement released by Impact Basketball.

“It’s also an opportunity for players that don’t have access to their team’s facilities or training staffs to stay in shape and rehabilitate any nagging injuries.”

Abanussar hopes the players can get back to work soon, but if that’s not the case, he’s prepared to keep the league going, and said they may do it all again in October. And November. And so on.

“After these two weeks, a lot of the guys will stay here and train anyway,” Abanussar said.

“If there’s no deal, then we’ll just do it again next month. We’re prepared to keep going until there’s a deal.”

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