Photos: LeBron and Kobe get Nike Elite shoes for the playoffs

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LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are the game’s two biggest stars, so it’s not a surprise that Nike is making their signature shoes among the first to be available as part of its Elite Series.

From the press release:

“Nike Basketball today introduced its supercharged Elite Series providing new levels of footwear innovation. The Nike Kobe VIINike Zoom Hyperdunk and LeBron 9 all feature premium materials and footwear technologies providing players with a performance advantage.

“Nike designers have obsessed on every detail. Incorporating the most innovative materials and design techniques, the three styles take performance to another level. Lightweight construction, enhanced fit, dynamic protection and distinctive colors are just some of the innovation included in this premium series.

“At Nike we have a maniacal focus on product innovation to give athletes a competitive advantage,” said Leo Chang, Nike Basketball Footwear Design Director.  “For the Nike Basketball Elite Series, we completely re-engineered each shoe from the inside out using the highest performance materials. We took our top franchise models and made them even better for the moment that matters most to our athletes – the run for the championship trophy.”

“Home and Away colors are the inspiration for the elegant white and black base of the shoes; as the trophy is the inspiration behind the gold details spread throughout the series. Each style of the Nike Basketball Elite Series worn on court will initially display a special white Swoosh Design. As the playoffs approach, Nike celebrates the player’s achievements by replacing the white Swoosh with a gold one for the final game.”

The top-of-the-line footwear comes to retail April 28th, and does so at a top-of-the-line price: The LeBron 9 Elite will retail for $250, while the Kobe VII Elite will set you back $200.

Check out the photo gallery below and let us know if you’ll be tempted to pick up a pair in the comments.

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Kawhi Leonard returns Tuesday on minutes restriction

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The Spurs have been the Spurs this season, going 19-8 with an elite defense and offense that’s good enough to get them wins, thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge playing at an All-Star level.

Starting Tuesday, they add Kawhi Leonard back to the mix.

He will return to the lineup against Dallas, but will be on a minutes restriction, coach Gregg Popovich said on Tuesday. He would not say how many minutes, although around 20 seems a logical starting spot.

Leonard is one of the five best players in the NBA (and that may be selling him short). He averaged a career-high 25.5 points a game last season, he’s arguably the best perimeter defender in the NBA, and he finished third in the MVP voting last season.

However, there are going to be adjustments. LaMarcus Aldridge has been the focal point of the offense, but he could see fewer touches, particularly in crunch time. Kyle Anderson could see fewer minutes, and Rudy Gay may as well because Popovich liked some small-ball lineups last season with Leonard at the four. A lot of players will see their rotations change.

That said, it’s the Spurs. Do we really expect them to be anything but an incredibly good regular season team? One that is about to get better?

 

 

 

Pelicans’ Tony Allen out 3-4 weeks with fibula fracture

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The injuries just keep hitting the Pelicans. Guys like Solomon Hill and Alexis Ajinca are out for extended periods of time. Anthony Davis has missed four of the team’s last six games and is questionable for Wednesday night due to a left adductor injury.

Now comes the news that reserve guard Tony Allen will be out three to four weeks due to a nondisplaced left proximal fibula fracture, the team announced Tuesday. This is the part of the bone near the ankle.

Allen has played a limited role for New Orleans off the bench this season, averaging 12.4 minutes a game, and averaging 4.7 points. His reputation is that of a defensive stopper, and when he is on the court this season the Pelicans’ defense has been 5.6 points per 100 possessions better. However, father time has started to catch up with him and he is not the defender he once was.

Expect the minutes to bump up for Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore with this injury, which is not a bad thing as they have played well (they were knocking down threes against the Rockets Monday like they were named Curry), plus Ian Clark could get a little more run.

Watch Kawhi Leonard chop boards ‘karate styyyle’ (video)

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Kawhi Leonard, enabled by the Spurs’ no-nonsense culture, is probably the NBA’s most boring superstar.

He’s widely recognized as the league’s best defender, and he has worked himself into an elite offensive threat. He has already won a Finals MVP, and regular-season MVP could eventually be in the cards.

But Leonard is notoriously reserved. For someone who has been on this stage for so long, we know little about him.

Except we now know he apparently likes karate.

Leonard:

Gonna chop y’all up. Look at all of us. Karate styyyle.

If “karate styyyle” doesn’t become Leonard’s catchphrase, I don’t even know what we’re doing.

Leonard will finally have the chance to chop up an NBA opponent tonight, when he makes his return from injury.

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

Kevin Durant brings fan to tears with autographed shoes (video)

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Kevin Durant has become a villain to many.

Clearly not to this Warriors fan, though.