Training like the Pros: Recapping a month-long Nike Basketball workout experience

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NEW YORK — Being a professional basketball player goes well beyond attending team-mandated practices and workouts. For the best of the best, it also involves going through hardcore training sessions designed to finely hone their skill set, both from a physical as well as from a basketball perspective.

Nike Basketball gave a group of media members the chance to see just what this was like, by putting us through a month-long training experience designed to mimic what the professionals go through in every way possible.

We met once a week for 8AM workouts, except during All-Star week where there were a few additional responsibilities. Car service was provided to and from the facilities, as was all of the clothing and footwear necessary to go through the complete training experience. And, a meal prepared by Chef Max — the personal chef of Amar’e Stoudemire — was waiting for us after each session was finished.

It was set up so that the only thing you had to focus on was giving your all during each workout session, just like the professionals. And the trainers that were enlisted to put us through the paces were demanding enough to ensure they got the most from all of us.

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The first week coincided with the launch of the Kobe X, so it only made sense that Kobe Bryant’s (and Michael Jordan’s) personal trainer, Tim Grover, ran our initial workout. The drills were a combination of conditioning and basketball, with little time to rest in between at any point during the 45-minute session. There were core exercises mixed in with plenty of cardio and leg-strengthening drills, and we held a basketball during all of them, because Bryant does during his workouts — as Grover said, “Kobe likes to feel the ball in his hands.”

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Week 2 was a slight departure from the full training experience, but there was still plenty to keep us busy. As part of the All-Star festivities, our group participated in Nike’s Zoom City Classic, which was a six-team basketball tournament that also featured actors and entertainers like Common, Stalley, Eddie Huang and Ansel Elgort, as well as semi-professional players like Brian Kortovich, who lit it up from everywhere and walked away with MVP honors. The tournament was played at Nike’s Zoom City arena that was specifically constructed to host All-Star week activities, and featured an insane LED court that provided a truly one-of-a-kind experience.

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The day before the tournament, we were put through a series of tests modeled after the NBA’s Draft Combine, where BAM testing-like measurements were taken in order to create even teams. Players like Kortovich added to the mix made that somewhat impossible, but the games were mostly competitive nonetheless, and a couple ended with some very intense buzzer-beating finishes.

Weeks 3 and 4 were more like the first, with early-morning workouts run by the game’s elite trainers. Jerry Powell has worked with the likes of Paul George, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, and his drills had us focused primarily on honing our fundamental basketball skills, while teaching us ways to improve upon them at the very same time.

The last workout was run by Idan Ravin, who boasts a similarly impressive client list and is known in the industry as being somewhat secretive about his practices. He authored a book called The Hoops Whisperer, and his workout was the most intense of the bunch, as the drills involved the targeting of specific muscle groups to support the moves most commonly made on the court by the game’s top athletes. There was non-stop cardio training in between, and the combination of that and the knowledge that was imparted made for an extremely enlightening (and completely exhausting) final session.

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The month-long journey was a perfect way to experience just how much hard work goes into training at an elite level. While it’s true that the vast majority of those in the NBA have genetic gifts that most of us could only dream of, to those who consistently seek to outperform their peers or hope to emerge as one of the game’s greats, the additional training sessions aren’t merely an occasional luxury — they’re an absolute necessity.

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THE SHOES

A recap of all the footwear that was tested during the month-long Nike Basketball training experience, along with a brief performance review of each.

WEEK 1

KOBE X

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The tenth signature model for Kobe Bryant has been improved over its predecessor in two significant ways. The cushioning system is now a hybrid of multiple technologies, which makes for a much bouncier feel and a solid and comfortable ride from forefoot to heel. The traction is brand new, and uses nodules that grip the court similar to those that appear on performance race car tires. The fit is comfortable from the moment you put these on, with zero break-in required. These lived up to expectations, with the overall performance ranking right up there with any basketball shoes currently on the market.

WEEK 2

NIKE ZOOM HYPERCROSS TRAINER

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The first time I got a chance to try these was at the LeBron 12 launch in Portland back in September, and I’ve been a fan ever since. The hex zoom pods on the sole are excellent for multi-directional training workouts, like those we were put through as part of our NBA Combine experience. The shoe features a snug and lightweight fit, and the cushioning is there wherever you need it, thanks to the pods passing you seamlessly from one to the next as your foot changes positions throughout your training session.

NIKE HYPERCHASE

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The Hyperchase is a new model, designed for playmakers like James Harden who was the inspiration for the way this one performs. The stylings are more interesting than most, thanks to an asymmetrical design and the angular position of the Swoosh, which was placed that way intentionally so that “it would read accurately when an athlete, like Harden, is on his toes – a position that’s common for quick, dynamic athletes.” These ones fit nicely, with little-to-no noticeable slippage once you’re locked in. The shoes feature above-average traction, and plenty of forefoot cushioning, which helps immensely when attempting to make that explosive first step.

WEEK 3

NIKE ZOOM HYPERREV 2015

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These are surprisingly good basketball shoes, and maybe even the best of the bunch. The cushioning and lockdown are both very impressive, the latter made possible by a foam collar construction that provides a snug and comfortable fit. Traction and breathability are well above average, too, and I’ve found myself reaching for these time and again when heading to subsequent workouts. I recommend a half-size up from what you normally wear due to the way these fit, and while I don’t want to oversell these too hard, they really provide an extremely solid level of overall performance.

WEEK 4

KOBE X ELITE

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This was a very cool surprise.

It’s not often you can shock members of the basketball sneaker media with something unexpected, but when we were told we’d be getting to play in the Kobe X Elite the day of our final training session — a shoe that hadn’t yet been announced, and wasn’t even on anyone’s radar considering the Elite series usually doesn’t drop until near the end of the regular season — there was a palpable sense of excitement.

The Kobe X Elite goes with the highest of high-top silhouettes, much like its predecessor, the Kobe 9. The cushioning system is improved over the previous year’s model, and is the same that’s found in the Kobe X low version we demo’d the first week. The Flyknit upper makes for a more sturdy and locked-in feel that stops just short of being rigid, and players who value ankle support will certainly appreciate it. If you liked the high-top 9s, then you’ll like these, too — they take a significant step forward in that particular design’s evolutionary process.

Curry drains 7 3-pointers, Nets start homestand with win over Blazers

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NEW YORK (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 31 points, Seth Curry added a season-high 29 off the bench and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Portland Trail Blazers 111-94 on Sunday.

Curry was 7 for 10 on 3-pointers and had his highest point total with the Nets and the most by a Brooklyn reserve this season.

“I’ve always felt like if I get good shots I’m going to make them at a high clip,” Curry said. “Our offense was flowing pretty well. Guys found me open early on to start the game and I felt pretty good, aggressive.”

Kyrie Irving added 22 points for the Nets. Ben Simmons took just three shots but had 12 rebounds and eight assists.

“Ben did a great job of getting downhill,” Curry said. “He’s a great passer (and) he knows how to find me out there on the floor.”

Jerami Grant scored 29 points for Portland. Jusuf Nurkic had 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Anfernee Simons added 15 points and Justice Winslow had 14.

The Nets have won four of their last six games, while the Trail Blazers, who are playing without Damian Lillard, have dropped five of six.

“Tough little stretch that we’re in right now,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “It is what it is. Every team goes through it.”

Brooklyn made 52.6% of its shots from the field overall, and 42.9% from 3-point range, in the second matchup between the teams in 10 days.

“It’s a make-or-miss league,” Durant said. “It’s about baskets.”

With the Nets leading by four entering the fourth, Curry scored Brooklyn’s first eight points of the quarter. Royce O'Neale‘s free throw gave the Nets a 93-87 lead and following a Portland turnover, Curry made a 3 that extended the advantage to nine.

Nurkic sandwiched a hook shot and free throw around two free throws by Irving to cut Brooklyn’s lead to 98-90. However, after a timeout, Durant hit a 3 to push the lead to 101-90.

Brooklyn led 58-57 at halftime, and 84-80 after the third quarter.

T.J. Warren targets Dec. 2 for return to court for Brooklyn Nets

2022-2023 Brooklyn Nets Media Day
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
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T.J. Warren was a breakout star in the bubble, averaging 26.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game for the Pacers.

Warren has played just four games since the bubble due to stress fractures in his foot.

The Nets signed him this season hoping he could get healthy and provide some depth off the bench at the four. We’re about to find out if that can happen on Dec. 2, with Warren targeting his return then Toronto, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Nets have not confirmed this timeline. However, coach Jacque Vaughn has recently talked up Warren’s workouts and hinted that a return is getting close.

A healthy Warren could be a big boost for a Nets team looking for more of a spark off the bench.

 

LeBron becomes oldest player with 39 points, 11 boards, seven 3-pointers (he’s also the youngest)

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The first question after LeBron James put up 21 and 8 to help the Lakers beat the Spurs Friday night was whether he would play in the back-to-back Saturday. He had just missed five games with a groin strain, after all.

Not only did LeBron play Saturday, he had a historic night.

LeBron had 39 points, 11 rebounds, and shot 7-of-12 from 3 — making him the oldest player in the history of the NBA with a 35+, 10+ with seven 3-pointer game.

The youngest player ever to put up that stat line? Also one LeBron James.

The 39 points were also the second most points ever scored by a player in his 20th NBA season, trailing only Kobe Bryant gunning his way to 60 in his final game.

The Lakers got the second straight win over the Spurs on Saturday behind LeBron, 143-138, a game more likely to be remembered for Zach Collins getting ejected for a foul that left Russell Westbrook bloody. The Lakers have won three straight and 5-of-6 but have done it against a very soft part of the schedule (three of the wins were over the tanking Spurs). Los Angeles beat the teams in front of it and started to show signs of life this season, but now they have to carry that over into a stretch against better teams, beginning Monday against the Pacers.

Watch Deandre Ayton put up 29 points, 21 rebounds, lead Suns past Jazz 113-112

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PHOENIX — There was much debate during the NBA offseason about whether Deandre Ayton was worth a max contract.

On nights like Saturday, the answer is a resounding yes.

Ayton notched season highs with 29 points and 21 rebounds, Devin Booker added 27 points and the Phoenix Suns held on for a hard-fought 113-112 win over the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz led 81-78 after three quarters, but the Suns pushed ahead 99-93 by midway through the fourth. The game remained tight through the final minutes, but Phoenix never lost the lead. On top of Ayton’s scoring and rebounding, he also had a crucial steal in the final minutes that helped thwart a final Jazz rally.

“I don’t know what he ate for Thanksgiving,” Booker said. “I should have been over there.”

Ayton grabbed his 21st rebound of the game on the final possession, securing Booker’s miss off a 3-pointer to keep the Jazz from a final possession. Ayton signed a four-year, $133 million deal during the offseason after the Suns matched an offer sheet from the Indiana Pacers.

“That young man has been coming to the gym at crazy hours, lifting with (coaches), so that he can be prepared for moments like this,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “It’s just good to see the work pay off. It’s good to see him have monster games against really good teams on a back-to-back. That’s pretty impressive.”

Ayton was the first player to have at least 28 points and 20 rebounds in a game for the Suns since Amar’e Stoudemire in 2007. He shot 11 of 19 from the field and added three assists and two blocks.

“I want to do more, I feel like I can do more,” Ayton said. “I’m just trying to do what I can to contribute to my team.”

Curiously, the Jazz didn’t foul the Suns on their final possession, essentially allowing them to run out the clock. Utah coach Will Hardy said the last play simply didn’t unfold like the team expected and there was some miscommunication.

“We wanted to get the ball out of Booker’s hands, and then foul,” Hardy said.

Ayton scored a season high for the second straight night. He poured in 28 points against the Pistons in a 108-102 win on Friday. Booker had a tough night shooting, making just 8 of 27 shots.

Utah was one of the NBA’s surprise teams in the first few weeks of the season, starting with a 10-3 record. The Jazz are just 3-7 since that point.

“One game, one stretch of the season doesn’t define your season,” Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk said. “You’ve got to go through ups-and-downs. Adversity – learn from it and come out the other side better for it.”

The Suns have an 11-1 record at home this season and have won four straight games.

Jordan Clarkson scored 22 points for the Jazz. Collin Sexton added 20 while Lauri Markkanen had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

The Jazz had a 54-51 lead at halftime. Clarkson led the Jazz with 12 points while Ayton had 11 points and seven rebounds.