Damian Lillard discusses the launch of his first signature shoe from adidas, the D Lillard 1

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Damian Lillard launched his first signature shoe from adidas, unveiling the D Lillard 1 at an event which was held at the company’s headquarters in Portland earlier this week.

Fans were invited to attend through Lillard’s social media channels, and they packed the place for a fun afternoon event that celebrated the player who has risen to quickly become the best on a very good Trail Blazers team.

Music was a theme throughout the sneaker launch, and with good reason. Lillard is the rarest of NBA creatures who is actually a skilled rapper, and his #4BarFriday weekly Instagram contest has become a fan favorite on a global scale.

As media arrived in Portland, they were given an iPod shuffle with 10 tracks preloaded that were chosen by Lillard himself. Once the event got going, Lillard gave us a live rendition of his latest 4bar creation, and there was a surprise performance from hip hop artist Future Hendrix, during which Lillard and members of his family weren’t afraid to put some of their dance moves on display.

After things wrapped up, the media spent the evening at a nearby recording studio, where plenty of silliness ensued as we were invited to lay down 4Bar tracks of our own in a professional setting.

[I did not do this. But those who did were surprisingly creative, hilarious and impressive with both their words and their respective styles — shout out to Abe Schwadron of SLAM, Lance Fresh of Bleacher Report, and Ian Stonebrook of Nice Kicks.]

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As for the sneakers themselves, Lillard was heavily involved from the very beginning of the process — one  that started 18 months before the shoes were ready to launch.

“I was all over it,” Lillard said. “I probably got on their nerves, because I would just pop up and show up to the office like, what you got? Let me see.”

“They were good about it,” he said. “I would send in pictures of some of my favorite shoes as a kid, or stuff that I like if I just see it on the Internet. I would screen shot and send a picture to them. … They listened to everything I had to say.”

Coming up with the details wasn’t easy for Lillard at the start, however — mainly because of the fact that while he of course had likes and dislikes from an aesthetic standpoint, he had paid little attention to the performance aspects when playing in the past.

“Basically, I’ve never really had a preference,” he said. “I’ve never loved a light shoe, or cared if it was kind of heavy, or [whether] it had a strap, or not a strap. I never really had a preference. So that’s what I had to get around. I had to figure out what I really wanted my shoe to look like, and it was kind of hard because I didn’t want to make their jobs hard by saying I don’t like that, or this is not how I want it, or I like this better than this. I had to fight that because I wanted it to look how I wanted it to look, so that’s probably why they brought me so many shoes, because we went back and forth about stuff. Because they were willing to work with me the way they did, it turned out just fine.”

How many shoes did they bring?

“Probably at least 20 different versions,” said Robbie Fuller, who designed the shoe for adidas. “But we had a really good starting point, because he gave us some real specific must-haves, which was to have this tech fit sleeve right next to the foot. He gave us the direction of how he really wanted to lace hard. And then finally, the SprintFrame construction, which we started with the adizero Crazy Light. It’s an efficient way to build a shoe that makes sense. You reduce the amount of softer, heavier material, and you replace it with something that’s lighter and stronger.”

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Keeping the price of the shoe down was near the top of the priority list for Lillard, who didn’t want his fans to have to break the bank just to be able own his first signature shoe. That meant keeping costs down from a manufacturing standpoint, which affected the choices he had to make when helping to create the shoe’s construction.

“We talked about the Boost, which would obviously have made the shoe probably 35, 40 dollars more expensive,” Lillard said. “But that’s why I wore [the D Lillard 1] a lot. In the summer I was wearing it, and then after that I had a few pairs that I just would always wear, because I wanted it to be a quality shoe. I didn’t want it to be just a shoe they put together so it could be cheap, you know what I mean? I wanted it to be quality. And it still ended up being a quality shoe without having the ‘greatest’ technology. I think you can still have a really good shoe without it being made out of the most expensive stuff you can use.”

The shoes feel great. They’re comfortable when you first slip them on, with zero break-in required. The cushioning that was used is more than ample — especially in the heel, but there’s enough in the forefoot to provide a smooth enough ride. We got a brief chance to play in them, and the above-average level of traction that was present was impossible not to notice.

Events like these can be awkward for the athlete, who is at the center of attention while hundreds in attendance focus on him and sing his praises for an extended length of time. Lillard managed to remain humble throughout it all, which, along with the wealth of on-court talent he possesses, is a quality that helps endear him to so many fans.

“People have been asking me all day, are you excited, are you going to cry, are you this, are you that,” Lillard said. “And I’m like … I’m trying to make myself, I guess, appreciate it more, because I know that I overlook a lot of things that I should probably be proud of, because I’m so quick to want to move on to the next thing.

“But I’m actually proud of it, because it’s something that’s mine, and I know how much I played a part in developing the shoe. It’s something that represents me.”

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The D Lillard 1 will be available at Foot Locker and adidas.com on February 6 at a retail price of $105.

NBA Media Day roundup: Zion looking fit, Ayton sounding reserved, more

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
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Most of the NBA conducted media day on Monday — some moments turned our head.

Here’s what you need to know from media day around the league — just the highlights. This does not include anything on the Nets — there’s a separate story on them — or the Lakers (there will be a story Tuesday morning out of Lakers’ media day).

• The reports of Zion Williamson being in the best shape of his career appear to be true. HoodieBev has the recipts.

We’ll see if this translates to the court — there’s a lot of pressure on him — but Zion looks like he’s put in the work.

• Speaking of players who looked in better shape, James Harden looked slimmed down. He joked he lost 100 pounds, but he also talked about his diet and exercise regimen.

Deandre Ayton got a four-year, $132.9 million contract extension this summer, but not because the Suns were handing it out. Ayton had to get the Pacers to make the offer (which is why he doesn’t have a five-year deal) and then the Suns matched it. Ayton is a guy with a usually upbeat personality, but when asked about his new contract, it was a short answer and a low-key tone.

Coach Monty Williams and All-Star Devin Booker both talked about how they expect Ayton to use the contract as motivation and come out with a monster season. We’ll be watching.

• The Suns’ players and coach had to all answer the “what did you think of the Robert Sarver investigation report?” question, and the answers were unanimous — they were disgusted, saddened, and felt for those (especially the women) who had to deal with his behavior. They also to a man said they had no idea (which, at least before the original ESPN report, may have been true; how he acted around players and those on the business side appears to be different).

• All the Celtics were asked about their former coach Ime Udoka’s season-long suspension, and Marcus Smart summed up the sentiments well — “it’s been hell.” They were caught off guard like much of the NBA was. That said, to a man, they backed interim coach Joe Mazzulla.

• With P.J. Tucker out in Miami there has been a lot of talk about Jimmy Butler playing the four, especially to close games. Butler himself shot that down, saying he is not a four.

The Heat continue to look for a trade for a four, but may not have one to start the season.

• At his end-of-season media session last May, Pat Riley said Kyle Lowry needed to show up in better shape this season. It appears Lowry did, but did it motivate him? “It’s whatever… everyone has their opinion.”

• It’s not media day unless Kawhi Leonard is laughing.

As for Leonard and load management this season, coach Tyronne Lue said he would play it by ear. But also, expect some.

 

Report: Heat, Celtics, Mavericks, Grizzlies may show interest in Crowder trade

2022 NBA Playoffs - 	Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns
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The Phoenix Suns had media day on Monday, but veteran Jae Crowder was not there, part of a mutual agreement with the team to sit out until a trade could be found. It left players and GM James Jones addressing the issue.

What teams are interested in Crowder? Shams Charania of The Athletic says to watch for the Heat, Celtics, Mavericks and Grizzlies among others.

Miami has been at the front of the line in terms of interest (and Crowder has suggested online he would welcome a return to Miami). The Heat have minutes to fill at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly and Crowder — who was on the Heat team that went to the bubble Finals against the Lakers — would be a solid fit. Putting together a trade is a little more tricky. The Heat would likely want Duncan Robinson at the core of the deal, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig — and that means the Heat have to throw in a pick (a protected first) or a minimum-contract player (Gabe Vincent?) to make the deal work. Not impossible, but not likely.

The Celtics need depth at the four but what they can offer is bench minutes, filling Danilo Gallinari‘s role (he is out for the season with a torn ACL) but putting together a trade is next to impossible financially considering who Boston would be willing to give up (not Robert Williams). Dallas could put together a deal if the Suns are interested in Dwight Powell (probably not, the Suns just paid Deandre Ayton a lot of money to be their center) or Reggie Bullock. Memphis could send out the dead money of the Danny Green contract (out for the season due to injury) and picks, or Ziaire Williamson and some minimum players (probably also with picks). Atlanta, Chicago and other destinations have come out in rumors.

As for why Crowder pushed for a trade, the man himself posted his own hype video on Instagram and Tweeted this.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported the most heard speculation around the league as to the reason — the Suns were going to start Cameron Johnson at the four to have more shooting and Crowder wanted none of that — but the reason now is moot. Crowder will get traded.

The only questions are when and where.

Durant, Irving talk about Nets moving on from ‘very awkward’ summer, but drama continues

Brooklyn Nets Media Day
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Media Day — arguably the most boring and tedious day on the NBA calendar — was anything but in Brooklyn.

After a summer Kyrie Irving admitted was “very awkward” — where both he and Kevin Durant pushed to be traded, and Durant threw down an ultimatum saying it was him or coach Steve Nash and GM Sean Marks — everyone was back under one roof and trying to stay on message about just wanting to win.

But drama will follow this team like a dark cloud until they force the conversation to be about something else. Like how many games they are winning.

Until then, the awkward questions and moments will come. For example, why did Kevin Durant ask for a trade this summer? What did he want to see changed? He talked about the team feeling unstable last season. Which it was (for a variety of reasons).

“My whole thing was, I wanted everybody to be held accountable for their habits as a basketball player. I think a lot of stuff was getting swept under the rug because we’re injured or this guy’s not around or just the circumstances. I thought we could have fought through that a little bit more and focused on the guys that were here a little bit more.

“You know, when I went out with the injury, we lost 10 in a row. And I’m like, we shouldn’t be losing some of these games that we lost, regardless of who’s on the floor. So I was more so worried about how we’re approaching every day as a basketball team. And I felt like we could have fought through a lot of the stuff that I felt that held us back.”

Those are the best, drama-free answers he could give. But Durant still loves to stir the pot on Twitter and did so later in the day.

(That was the question asked boiled way down, but both the question and Durant’s answer had a lot more context, it was not a confrontational answer in the moment.)

Kyrie Irving said there were options for him this summer, although limited ones, because he is unvaccinated. He also talked about the reasons he wanted to return to the Nets.

Marks handled the inevitable “your star wanted you fired” questions as well as he could, saying at one point “that’s pro sports.”

“Everybody’s entitled to their opinions and I think from us, it’s not to hold a grudge against what Kevin said, but it’s a little bit of saying, ‘All right, if that’s the way he feels, what’s going on here?’ Like, what do we need to change?” Marks said.

In the end, everyone talked about moving on and the potential for this roster. Durant is not disappointed to be back.

“I wasn’t disappointed. I still love to play. I knew that wasn’t going to get affected regardless of what happened this summer,” Durant said.

The Nets have the talent on the roster to be title contenders, but have more questions than any other team at that level after the past couple of years: Can Durant stay healthy? Will Irving be focused and committed for an entire season? How does Ben Simmons fit in and what is his role? Can their thin frontcourt hold up? Will they play enough defense? Is Steve Nash up to the task? Does this team have the will and drive to be contenders?

Playing through the drama is the only way to answer all those questions, but if they do this team could be a powerhouse.

PBT Podcast: Golden State Warriors season preview

2022 NBA Finals - Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics
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The Golden State Warriors will enter the season hanging banner number four from this era and passing out their championship rings, but this is a team with more questions than most returning champs.

Otto Porter and Gary Payton II are gone and their minutes will go to a young core — Jordan Poole, Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman — who are going to be asked to carry a larger load. Particularly during the regular season.

Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area joins Kurt Helin of NBC Sports to break down this coming Warriors season, what to expect, and if the young core can get the older vets to the playoffs rested and ready to defend their title. There’s also talk of what comes next in Golden State, as some hard contract choices are coming in the next few years.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.