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

Leave a comment

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.

Warriors eliminate Spurs, advance to face Pelicans

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
1 Comment

Kevin Durant drained a pull-up 3-pointer reminiscent of his signature NBA Finals shot in the final minute of the third quarter. The Spurs ended the quarter with a flurry and kept coming.

Durant made consecutive mid-range jumpers over Kyle Anderson midway through the fourth quarter. The Spurs called timeout, subbed  Rudy Gay for Anderson and kept coming.

Durant drove past Gay and dunked. The Spurs called another timeout and kept coming.

Each of those Durant shots seemed as if they could be the backbreaker. Credit San Antonio for continuing to play hard.

But without Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs were just overmatched against the superstar small forward in the Warriors’ 4-1 first-round victory – which ended with Golden State’s 99-91 Game 5 win Tuesday.

The Warriors’ next opponent – the Pelicans, who open their second-round series Saturday – could soon learn the feeling.

New Orleans relies on E'Twaun Moore, Darius Miller and Solomon Hill at small forward – not the slate of stoppers that seems ready for Durant. Even on an off night (1-for-8 on 3-pointers, five turnovers), Durant scored 25 in Game 5. He’s a tough cover. But those three Pelicans – Moore (size), Miller (fundamentals) and Hill (speed) – each have major defensive liabilities Durant can exploit.

And Durant will have plenty of help.

Klay Thompson (24 points) appears headed back on track after a clunker in Game 4. Draymond Green (17 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists) looks locked in.

And, of course, Stephen Curry is poised to return sometime against the Pelicans.

The Warriors weren’t very impressive in the San Antonio series. Nor did they need to be. The Spurs were just overmatched, unable to summon nearly enough offense.

But Golden State showed enough focus and reminders of its talent to retain favored status even against better opponents – like New Orleans, which swept the Trail Blazers. Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday lead a surging team.

The Spurs want to get back on that level, and that stars with solving the Leonard dilemma this summer.

Will they offer him a super-max extension? Would he take it? Will they trade him? Will he request a trade?

With questions like that facing San Antonio, by comparison, the Pelicans are stable at small forward.

How do you like “The Process” now? Sixers eliminate Heat, advance to second round

8 Comments

It felt inevitable.

Not “The Process” from the start. There were some severe downs before the ups.

Not this first playoff series against Miami from the start, because it felt even… until Game 3 when Joel Embiid returned in his mask and tipped the scales.

No, it was Game 5’s result felt inevitable as it unfolded. Not because Philadelphia won the previous game in Miami and could close it out at home. Not because the Sixers have the two biggest talents in the series in Ben Simmons and Embiid.

Rather, Game 5 felt inevitable because the Sixers got better looks all night long. They got them with ball movement, with player movement that created mismatches or clean jumpers. It was tied 46-46 at the half because Philadelphia just missing its good looks while the Heat were struggling with hands in their face all night. Philadelphia shot 38.1 percent in the first half overall and were 2-of-12 from three.

In the third quarter, it all changed.

Philadelphia went on an early 9-0 run, shot 50 percent as a team for the quarter, all while continuing to play defense and get stops. The Sixers won the third 34-20 and held on through Miami rallies in the fourth to take the game comfortably, 104-91.

With the win, Philadelphia wins the series 4-1 and advances to the second round, where they will face either Boston or Milwaukee (Boston leads the series 3-2).

They did it behind 27 from J.J. Redick, who knocked down five threes. Embiid had 19 points and 12 rebounds, Simmons had 14 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. However, it was the defense that held the Miami to 38.6 percent shooting overall and 16-of-31 from three within eight feet of the basket that won the game for Philly.

This young Sixers team learned lessons in this first round, and maybe the biggest was how to adapt the physicality of the playoffs, and keeping your cool while things don’t go your way.

“I thought we withstood the physicality of the Heat,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “They’re a great organization. They came to mean it, we knew they wouldn’t go away easily, and we had to have that physical element to match.”

They matched that physicality, but what they had was talent that could step up.

They also savored the moment. Midway through the fourth, up comfortably and still knocking down shots, the young Sixers were reveling in the deafening crowd in the Wells Fargo Center. Philadelphia was reveling in success after years of struggling through the process — the players and fans wanted to start that party midway through the fourth.

However, Heat have no chill and no quit in them, they went on a 10-0 in the fourth quarter, not-so-coincidentally after Sixers fans started chanting, “We want Boston!”

But when it mattered the Heat couldn’t get stops — the Sixers talent showed through. Redick hit threes. Embiid owned the paint. Simmons did a little bit of everything.

It was a moment of revelry in Philadelphia. One years in the making — and maybe the first in many years of future celebrations on that court.

Sixers players douse Brett Brown, present him with bell after closing Heat (VIDEO)

4 Comments

The Philadelphia 76ers are moving on. Let’s just try to process that for a moment.

After beating the Miami Heat on Tuesday night, 104-91, this iteration of the Sixers experienced their first playoff series win together. It was also the first series win for coach Brett Brown as the man in charge of an NBA team.

As such, players gathered in the locker room after the win to hear Brown speak about the win, and about how the team had more to give and to learn as they moved forward together in the playoffs.

When Brown concluded his speech, he tried to hand off the victory bell to JJ Redick. As soon as Redick received it, he bestowed the honor of the bell right back upon Brown.

That’s when teammates showered Brown with whatever they had nearby, and Brown rung the bell.

Man, what a moment.

Marcus Smart returns, helps Celtics win Game 5 over Bucks

1 Comment

Marcus Smart returned to the Boston Celtics after suffering a thumb injury earlier in the year, and boy was it just in time.

The Celtics guard came off the bench, doing what he does best: attacking opposing guards, grabbing rebounds, and making hustle plays for his squad. Smart thoroughly annoyed the Milwaukee Bucks, and as Giannis Antetokounmpo failed to make a push in the second half (and as Khris Middleton‘s shooting slowly deteriorated) it was Boston who came out with a win in Game 5, 92-87.

Milwaukee’s offense failed to show up early. According to NBA TV, it was the second-lowest halftime total for the Bucks this season, and the away team scored just 37 points at the break. Milwaukee struggled mightily as a team, shooting just 21 percent from 3-point range. Despite the issues, both Antetokounmpo and Middleton had 11 points by half.

Boston’s attack was balanced, with nine players scoring in the first half but none reaching double figures. Smart was effective off the bench, playing 12 minutes in the first half. Smart’s presence was felt elsewhere on the floor as well; in those minutes he racked up two blocks, two rebounds, and two assists.

The Celtics stalled to start the third quarter, at times going several minutes between baskets. The intensity level was still high, particularly during one tussle with 9:33 left in the third. Eric Bledsoe and Terry Rozier got into a bumping match on the baseline away from the ball, resulting in one player getting pushed into an official. Bledsoe earned a Flagrant 1 for his efforts, and Rozier was assessed a technical.

Milwaukee began to battle back on surprising baskets by Shabazz Muhammad. The former Minnesota Timberwolves wing dropped two 3-pointers to help the Bucks make a run at the Celtics all the way into the fourth quarter.

The critical play of the game came with 80 seconds left. With the shot clock winding down, Al Horford was allowed by officials to shoot a long jumper. The refereeing crew didn’t blow the whistle, and Boston took a second possession after a backtip.

Then, with 28 seconds left as the Bucks were trying to steal or foul the Celtics, came the play Boston fans had been waiting for from Smart. At first it appeared Milwaukee had shot at a turnover as they hustled Smart to the floor on a trap. Thinking quickly, Smart leapt on the lost ball, flipped over, and sent a pass to a wide open Horford for the basket, all but sealing the game.

Milwaukee tried to play the foul game in the final minute or so, but weren’t able to come up with a win. Antetokounmpo finished with just 16 points and Middleton with 23. Horford led the Celtics with 22 points, 14 rebounds, and three assists.

Boston now leads the series, 3-2, as they head back to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Thursday.