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Nike LeBron 8 PS: Reviewing the shoe’s performance after a run on the Heat’s home floor

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Pro Basketball Talk was in Miami for the release of the Nike LeBron 8 PS, the playoff series edition of LeBron James’ signature shoe. In this third and final part of of our profile, we break down how the shoe performed on the court … the Miami Heat’s home court, at American Airlines Arena.

This is where it all comes together. We told you about the concept and the creative process behind the LeBron 8 series, and we told you about the differences in the construction of the shoes that Nike created for LeBron James this season. Now, it’s performance time.

Nike flew a group of media members to Miami for the weekend for the release of the LeBron 8 PS. The shoes were globally released to the public last Saturday, the same day that the Heat opened the playoffs with a Game 1 home win over the Sixers.  The whole experience, as you might imagine, was pretty insane.

After everyone got into town and checked into a hotel that was far, far nicer than necessary — and after everyone somehow found their way out of their ridiculously large, multi-room individual suites — it was time for a trip to the American Airlines arena, where the group was led through the underbelly of the massive building and into an auxiliary locker room. Waiting for us when we got there was a full compliment of basketball gear to prepare us for the actual wear test.

Once the presentation from Nike lead designer Jason Petrie was finished, and the question and answer session with the media was complete, it was time to hit the floor for some hoops to test the footwear out. But not in the PS 8s just yet.

Nike wanted us to feel the difference between the V2s and the latest edition, both in terms of the weight difference  and in how the different technology feels while wearing them in a basketball situation. We all put on a new pair of the V2s and headed out of the locker room, through the tunnel, and onto the Heat’s home court.

As we walked onto the floor, a group of “coaches” was there waiting for us. The first extended his hand to me and introduced himself: “Hey. Kenny.” No big deal. It was only Kenny Anderson.

They started things off by leading us in some warmup stretching, then put us through some fairly standard basketball practice drills (three-man weave, screen and pop, two-man full court fast break, etc.) so we could get a feel for the shoe’s performance.

(Side note: This was actually pretty hilarious, for a couple of reasons. First off, it was immediately clear that not everyone in the group had experienced playing organized team basketball, and for a couple of players, it seemed as though they hadn’t played basketball in any capacity in a long, long time. Now, this is not a knock on anyone, because really, any fan of shoes or the game of basketball in any capacity likely would have killed for this experience. But the coaches running us through the drills didn’t seem to recognize this, because they just shouted a few vague instructions — “Hey! No! Behind!” —  instead of running through a demo of each drill so that those unfamiliar could see how it was supposed to be done. It’s probably safe to say that we won’t see Anderson roaming the sidelines in a coaching capacity anytime soon.)

The V2s felt great — comfortable, bouncy (thanks to the full-length air bag), and supportive. After the drills were finished, we heeded to the bench to change into the new PSs, then broke into teams for half-court scrimmages.

The quality of basketball in these pickup games wasn’t the best; we had a wide mix of basketball ability, combined with the fact that everyone was playing in a professional arena for the first time, so it took some getting used to. The biggest issues in playing on an NBA floor for the first time are adjusting to shooting against such a huge backdrop, and obviously the size of the court, which came into play near the end of our time when we got to run full for the last 20 minutes or so. But eventually, guys were knocking down shots and making some decent plays out there.

As for the PS editions, they handled well, and were much lighter and really just completely different than the V2s. The weight difference was immediately noticeable, but the way the shoe provides overall support was also extremely different, and if you’re someone who has traditionally played in heavier shoes, these will take some getting used to. But once you do, the shoe feels exactly like that slimmed-down, high-performance edition that Petrie was going for.

The support is definitely there, even if the shoe’s lightness may not make you feel like it at first. There’s plenty of heel cushion, and the pad in the front of the shoe that’s there to compensate for dropping the full length airbag provides more than enough spring.

As with all basketball shoes, it’s all going to come down to personal preference: some people like a tighter fit, some need more ankle support, some like a heavier shoe to feel like they’re being fully protected. But whatever your preferences might be, it’s hard to imagine anyone being dissatisfied with the overall look, feel, and performance of the Nike LeBron 8 PS.

At this point, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “Well, what’s he going to say? Look at the experience Nike gave these guys!” And there’s some truth to that — it was a first-class weekend that was a blast to be a part of. But at the same time, Nike makes quality products, plain and simple. You know this, and they know this. So even if these shoes don’t end up being your favorites or you find that you prefer a different model or brand to play in consistently, as I said, it would simply come down to personal preference. Because from a quality standpoint, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything to truly complain about when it comes to these ones.

After loss, Kevin Durant doesn’t sound like guy looking to bolt Oklahoma City

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 30:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder walks off the court after being defeated 96-88 by the Golden State Warriors in Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 30, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images)
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The conventional wisdom around the NBA shifted some as the NBA playoffs wore on, moving from “Kevin Durant is definitely in play” to “Kevin Durant likely stays with the Thunder for at least a year” as the Thunder kept on winning and came close to knocking off the Golden State Warriors. Where is he going to go and have a better chance at a ring?

Of course, when asked directly about free agency after the game, Durant would have no part of it.

“I mean, we just lost like 30 minutes ago, so I haven’t even thought about it,” Durant said. “I’m just embracing my teammates and just reflecting on the season. I’ll think about that stuff, I don’t know when. But we just lost an hour ago, 30 minutes ago, so I don’t know.”

But some of the other things he said over the course of the night sounded like a guy who is going to stay put. At least for now. There was this comment reflecting back on the season:

“I’m just proud of what all we’ve been through this season. We stuck together and we sacrificed for each other. That’s just what makes this game so special.”

Notice the use of the word “we.” He used that word a lot in his postgame press conference.

He used that word more speaking to Sam Amick of the USA Today a little later in the evening.

“We all grew up,” Durant said. “I think more than anything, we embraced the moment. We stayed in the moment every game. I’m more proud because most of these guys haven’t played in this atmosphere before.

“From (fellow free-agent-to-be) Dion (Waiters) to Enes to Andre, Steven – this is his first time as a starter playing, in this type of atmosphere as one of the main guys,” Durant said. “(Veteran) Randy (Foye) never made it to the Western Conference Finals, and he played a lot. Anthony Morrow had never made it to the playoffs, so I was just proud of how everyone just stayed in the moment and enjoyed it. That’s what I’m most proud of.”

And then, the curious kicker.”I see bright things for this team,” he added. “And it’s great to be a part of it.”

Once Durant’s emotions have settled after the loss, he may look at his situation and decide he does want to test the waters of free agency. There are no certainties in the NBA.

However, the sense around the league is that Durant will sign a two-year, one-plus-one deal with the Thunder, where he gets max money next season then can opt out again after one year (the kind of deal LeBron James did last summer). The reason starts with money. Durant’s max salary next season (whether with the Thunder or another team) will start at around $28 million a year, but if he signs a new contract in 2017 — after another salary cap bump and he gets 10 years in the league, so the percentage of his max deal goes up — his max would  start in the $37 million a year range. There’s a risk with a one-year type deal, but it makes a lot of sense because he will make a lot more money and get to make one more run at a ring with Russell Westbrook and the developing cast in Oklahoma City.

We will see what Durant decides, but the smart bet is on him staying in OKC for at least one more season.

In-flight meeting helped spark Warriors rally from down 3-1

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 30:  Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors hoists the Western Conference Championship Trophy after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 30, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) A heart-to-heart was in order.

As the Golden State Warriors made the long, frustrating flight home from Oklahoma City last week suddenly facing elimination, Draymond Green gathered with a few fellow starters at a table in the front of the plane to discuss how to get the defending champions back to winning – and fast.

No other choice to avoid a premature end to this record-setting season.

“We just kept talking about what we needed to do and what we were going to do,” Green said.

Somehow, six days later, the Warriors had won Game 7 with a third straight victory against the Thunder after falling behind 3-1 in the best-of-seven series. And they are headed back to the NBA Finals for a rematch with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the title defense still very much within reach. Game 1 is Thursday night on Golden State’s Oracle Arena home floor.

“We never lost confidence, and every game just played with fearlessness and that confidence that we could get back to the Finals however we had to get it done,” MVP Stephen Curry said after his 36-point performance in Monday night’s 96-88 clincher of the Western Conference finals.

“I knew we were ready for the moment. We were a mature basketball team that tried our best not to listen to the noise outside when six, seven days ago, we’re down 3-1, everybody thought the wheels were falling off and it was kind of the end of our run,” Curry said. “But in that locker room, the talk was positive. It was, `Let’s figure this out, let’s go out and take it one game at a time and claw our way back into the series and see what happens.’ We followed that kind of mindset these last three games.”

In the airplane sit-down, Klay Thompson was clear he could only focus as far ahead as winning Game 5 before shifting to think about how to win another one on the Thunder’s court. Golden State’s most steady player this postseason, he hit an NBA-postseason record 11 3-pointers for 41 points in a thrilling 108-101 Game 6 comeback, then another six on Monday night on the way to 21 points.

Even after two embarrassing, lopsided road losses at Oklahoma City that put the Warriors in a big hole, Green counted on them finding a way to come back. He believed it would happen, “Because once we figured something out, we can get it rolling.”

Those two defeats were by 52 combined points.

“We were not just down 3-1, we had gotten blown out two straight games,” coach Steve Kerr said. “So obviously everything started with Game 5, kind of rediscovering ourselves and our style. Then Game 6 was kind of magical. What Klay did that night, basically putting us on his shoulders and allowing us to have this opportunity tonight at home, it’s a pretty remarkable comeback and it shows a lot about our guys and their will and their grit.”

Green is the one who made it clear to Kerr the Warriors wanted to go for the regular-season wins record rather than resting down the stretch, and they topped the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ 72-wins mark.

This time, the animated, emotional swingman helped Golden State become the 10th team to win a postseason series after falling behind 3-1, and it did it against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the powerful Thunder.

“I think everybody will look at 73 wins and say, `Wow, this team never hit any adversity,’ but there is adversity in every season. It all comes in different forms,” said Green, who had 11 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two blocks. “But when you’re talking down 3-1, and everything’s on the line, that makes it 10 times worse. So it’s definitely the biggest thing that this team has had to overcome, and it took a great, tremendous effort and fight to overcome it.”

The Warriors now must figure out a way to pull off four more wins against James and the Cavs, who will be eager to change their fortunes following that 4-2 Finals defeat last June when Golden State captured its first championship in 40 years.

Kerr made the spot-on decision to move Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup for Game 7 to defend Durant, just as the Coach of the Year did during the NBA Finals last year when Iguodala earned Finals MVP honors.

“To have our back against the wall and do it three straight games is tough,” Iguodala said. “I’ll probably forget about it tomorrow morning because we really want to get another one. But it was good for us to have to battle like that. Hopefully it carries over and we can continue with that intensity we’ve had the last three games.”

Reserve center Marreese Speights offered his postgame insight on Twitter.

“Y’all never seen a 73 win team .. Y’all never seen a player win unanimous mvp… Hahha this story not over!! (hash)history (hash)believe.”

Watch all 17 three pointers from Warriors Game 7 victory over Thunder

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“They beat us from the three-point line the last two games, we beat them from everywhere else,” Kevin Durant said after Game 7.

He’s right. For most of seven games the Oklahoma City Thunder owned play inside the arc — their length and athleticism gave the Warriors tremendous trouble. But the Warriors had the three ball as the equalizer — or, it turns out, slightly more than the equalizer. Golden State shot their way to a series win by knocking down threes the last two games. Often contested, well-defended threes.

Above check out the 17 threes the Warriors nailed in Game 7 (on 37 attempts, or 45.9 percent shooting). There’s a lot of Stephen Curry (7) and Klay Thompson (6) in those highlights.

Here’s the NBA Finals schedule, clear your schedule accordingly

San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat - Game 7
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The Cleveland Cavaliers vs. the Golden State Warriors. A rematch of the highest-rated NBA Finals since the Jordan era, which you know makes the suits at ABC/ESPN/Disney happy. But it’s also good for fans, these are the best teams from each conference, and it should be an interesting matchup.

The NBA has moved away from the Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday pattern of games the NBA Finals has followed for years. Below is the schedule for this year’s Finals, all times are Eastern, and all the games will be broadcast on ABC.

Game 1 – June 2 (Thursday) at Golden State  9:00PM

Game 2 – June 5 (Sunday) at Golden State 8:00PM

Game 3 – June  8 (Wednesday) at Cleveland  9:00 PM

Game 4 –Fri  June 10 (Friday) at Cleveland 9:00PM

Game 5 * — Mon  June 13 (Monday) at Golden State 9:00PM

Game 6 *  — Thu  June 16 (Thursday) at Cleveland 9:00 PM

Game 7 * —  June 19 (Sunday) at Golden State 8:00 PM

* means if necessary