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.

Ben Gordon goes vegan for a stint, notices improved energy

Orlando Magic v Golden State Warriors
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Ben Gordon ate avocados any time of day for their healthy fat, and also fueled his workouts with oatmeal and different juices or nutrient-rich smoothies.

Gordon went the vegan route – no dairy or meat – for a stretch a few months back.

“With that diet you have to kind of be creative,” the new Golden State guard said. “At that time I had a chef so it was a little bit easier.”

Gordon is back to a more “normal” diet as the season gets underway and he looks to play a part on the defending NBA champions.

He is eating meat again to gain back some of the weight he lost as a vegan for about the final six weeks of the season last spring and several weeks of the offseason. He needed a bit more strength to handle the rigors of an NBA schedule, yet his energy increased on the diet and he felt “a lot lighter and faster.”

The 6-foot-2 Gordon got down to his high school weight of 185, but noticed he wasn’t quite as strong and built himself back up to his typical playing weight at around 200 pounds.

“I experimented with that this summer and throughout the end of last season,” he said. “As you get older you try to see different things that work for you. I’m not doing it right now but I kind of use it functionally depending how my body feels. But with all the running, protein is hard to come by sometimes when you’re doing the vegan thing. I just like to mix it up.”

The 32-year-old Gordon, a London native and the third overall pick by Chicago out of Connecticut in 2004, averaged 6.2 points last season with Orlando. He enters his 12th NBA season looking to give Golden State another reliable shooter coming off the bench – something the Warriors have wanted.

Gordon wanted to be part of a winning situation, and he got that all right.

“You always have to prove yourself,” he said. “With this team, they won a championship so for me it’s just trying to mesh with the guys and not try to do too much. The league is so much about being in the right situation, being with the right group of guys that mesh with your talents and skills. This team here, the style of play is just a lot of ball movement and unselfish play, and they’re not shy about shooting so I think that’s right up my alley. They don’t have a guy on the bench who shoots a high arc from the 3-point line.”

Sure, committing to be a role player might be considered a risk for a guy who has long been a starter, yet Gordon is confident he will find his place on the defending champions and, he hopes, help the Warriors make another special postseason run.

“He’s been around a long time but he’s still got gas in the tank,” coach Steve Kerr said prior to taking a leave of absence last week to fully recover from back surgery. “He’s a good shooter, good scorer. You don’t have to have a traditional point guard in that role because Shaun (Livingston) and Andre (Iguodala) off the bench handle the ball. So he would be a good fit.”

Gordon played all 82 games in four different seasons, including three times in his initial five years with Chicago and again for Detroit in 2010-11. Yet Gordon has played as many as 75 games just once since with Charlotte in 2012-13 and averaged only 14.1 minutes last season with the Magic.

Not that anybody’s counting.

“I think he’s going to use this year to get another long deal,” said swingman and Finals MVP Iguodala, who made his pitch to Gordon to join Golden State while in Las Vegas this summer.

With the Warriors’ up-tempo style, Gordon plans to be patient and knows shots will find him given the way Golden State moves the ball.

“The last few years for me have been tough, but I think I fit in well here,” he said. “I’m taking my chances here. I’m not shy about this opportunity. It’s a great one.”

Oh, and he can’t wait to engage in some regular shooting competitions with NBA MVP Stephen Curry.

“It’s great to be out there with another great shooter,” Gordon said. “Just to see the way he works, how hungry he is. Even though I’m a vet, a few years older, I’m still picking up things and learning as I’m going along.”

Khris Middleton dunks, Jimmy Butler can’t stop him (VIDEO)

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Khris Middleton has more expectations and more pressure on him after a breakout season in Milwaukee, followed by him getting him PAID this summer.

Well, he looked pretty good on this play against the Bulls, making the steal then throwing down despite Jimmy Butler‘s efforts to stop him.

Middleton finished with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting for the Bucks. However, Butler had the last laugh as he went off for 23 points on 12 shots and led the Bulls to the (meaningless) preseason win.