West wages war on Golden State Warriors who have more in store

Jay Asser 16/10/2017
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Ultimate Warrior: Kevin Durant. Picture: Getty Images.

The Golden State Warriors have already achieved a historic run, and yet their ambitions and potential extend to so much more.

Two titles in three years, while impressive in its own right, seems like just scratching the surface in the context of what these Warriors can accomplish.

This is a team that enters the new season already pencilled in as champions by many – an expectation hardly unfounded after what they’ve done the past three seasons.

No team in league history has had a better regular season record over a three-year span, with the Warriors’ 207 wins edging the 203 by Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls from 1996-98. The lone campaign over that timeframe that didn’t yield a banner saw Golden State break the 1995-96 Bulls’ record for most victories in a single season with 73 in 2016.

Since that season in which they experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows – blowing a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers – the Warriors have only gotten better.

Kevin Durant’s seismic decision to join the ride ahead of last season turned Golden State into the NBA’s version of Voltron – a superteam that has inspired the formation of other superteams.

But while their talent and three-year run already puts them in the conversation for greatest team ever, their body of work still leaves enough to be desired before the talk shifts to greatest dynasty ever.

The Warriors know this and they very much yearn to take their place alongside those Jordan teams that captured six titles in an eight-year window during the 90s.

“I still think we’re not on their level yet, but that’s what we aspire to be of the 2000s,” Golden State’s Klay Thompson said. “We aspire to be that dynasty that will be in the minds of NBA fans forever.”

At the very least, the Warriors are already seared into the minds of their rivals as the league has frantically made moves in an attempt to close the gap at the top.

Astonishingly, seven players who were All-Stars last season switched teams in the summer, with four of those now in the West – Jimmy Butler, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Paul Millsap.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have undergone the most drastic makeover in the conference, trading for George and Anthony to provide reigning MVP and one-man army Russell Westbrook the support to compete with the four All-Star in the Bay Area.

It’s a calculated risk by general manager Sam Presti, who traded bit pieces for the opportunity to raise the Thunder’s variance. But it could also mean losing assets for a single season of George before he flees in free agency – the LA Lakers connection looms – and creating chemistry issues between two volume scorers who need the ball in their hands in Westbrook and Anthony.

New faces: Oklahoma City Thunder core. Picture: Getty Images.

New faces: Oklahoma City Thunder core. Picture: Getty Images.

The same questions over fit are also facing the new backcourt in Houston, where James Harden will have to cede some of the playmaking to veteran Chris Paul.

Like Westbrook with Oklahoma City last season, Harden was the engine that made everything go for the Rockets, who employ a fast-paced, up-and-down style that is predicated on hoisting up as many 3-pointers as possible. Paul, meanwhile, is more a slow-it-down, probing point guard who has earned a reputation as a stubborn, in-your-face team-mate – a contrast to Harden’s non-confrontational personality.

The marriage between Harden and Paul pits two players who alone have failed to topple the Warriors, but together hope for a sterner test.

While nearly all of Golden State’s main competitors have evolved, the one team that has remained mostly status quo are San Antonio – and it may not be a bad thing.

For what felt like the umpteenth straight year, the Spurs overachieved last season with a 61-21 record, which included an opening-night beatdown of the Warriors.

When the sides met again in the Western Conference Finals, San Antonio jumped to a 25-point lead in Game 1 before Kawhi Leonard suffered an ankle injury that ended his playoffs.

The addition of Rudy Gay on the wing will help, but the Spurs are hoping what’s needed to overcome Golden State was already there.

After the projected top four squads in the West, the race for the final four postseason spots will be as tight as any, with the Los Angeles Clippers, Utah, Minnesota, Denver, Memphis, Portland and New Orleans all realistically in the mix.

The Clippers are putting the keys in the hands of Blake Griffin, while Utah are facing a post-Gordon Hayward world built on their stingy defence, Minnesota and Denver are relying on their young core to come of age and New Orleans attempt to make their Anthony Davis-DeMarcus Cousins tandem work.

It’s only fitting that the bloodbath in the West mirrors what it will take to take down its rulers.


Northwest division

Denver Nuggets
Star player: Nikola Jokic
Coach: Michael Malone
Last season: 40-42
Key ins: Paul Millsap (ATL), Trey Lyles (UTA), Josh Childress (JPN), Tyler Lydon (R)
Key outs: Danilo Gallinari (LAC)
Strengths: Averaged the second-most assists last year (25.3) and points will again be in abundance.
Weaknesses: Only the Lakers had a worse defensive rating than Denver (110.5) as the Nuggets give up nearly as many as they score.
Verdict: Exciting and should continue to get better, but defence will keep them from contending.

Minnesota Timberwolves
Star player: Karl-Anthony Towns
Coach: Tom Thibodeau
Last season: 31-51
Key ins: Jimmy Butler (CHI), Taj Gibson (OKC), Jamal Crawford (LAC), Jeff Teague (IND), Justin Patton (R)
Key outs: Ricky Rubio (UTA), Zach LaVine (CHI), Kris Dunn (CHI), Brandon Rush (MIL)
Strengths: Should be even better than their third-ranked offensive rebounding rate of last year.
Weaknesses: Underachieved defensively in first year with Thibodeau.
Verdict: Should finally take the jump and get back to playoffs.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Star player: Russell Westbrook
Coach: Billy Donovan
Last season: 47-35, lost in first round
Key ins: Paul George (IND), Carmelo Anthony (NYK), Patrick Patterson (TOR), Raymond Felton (LAC), Terrance Ferguson (R)
Key outs: Victor Oladipo (IND), Enes Kanter (NYK), Domantas Sabonis (IND)
Strengths: Have three go-to scorers after having only one last season.
Weaknesses: The jury is still out on the core’s chemistry and fit.
Verdict: Have the firepower to at least push Golden State.

Portland Trail Blazers
Star player: Damian Lillard
Coach: Terry Stotts
Last season: 41-41, lost in first round
Key ins: Zach Collins (R), Caleb Swanigan (R)
Key outs: Allen Crabbe (BKN), Festus Ezeli (FA)
Strengths: Backcourt of Lillard and McCollum is one of the best around and can rain fire on the opposition.
Weaknesses: Defence reamins leaky, even with Jusuf Nurkic manning the basket.
Verdict: They’re somewhat capped by their ceiling, but landing a bottom-half playoff spot in the West is nothing to take for granted.

Utah Jazz
Star player: Rudy Gobert
Coach: Quin Snyder
Last season: 51-31, lost in second round
Key ins: Ricky Rubio (MIN), Thabo Sefolosha (ATL), Donovan Mitchell (R)
Key outs: Gordon Hayward (BOS), George Hill (SAC), Boris Diaw (FA), Trey Lyles (DEN)
Strengths: They make you grind out possessions and work for every point you score, especially near the rim where Gobert roams.
Weaknesses: Will have a harder time getting buckets after Hayward’s depature.
Verdict: Still a playoff-level team.

Pacific division

Golden State Warriors
Star player: Kevin Durant
Coach: Steve Kerr
Last season: 67-15, won NBA Finals
Key ins: Nick Young (LAL), Omri Casspi (MIN), Jordan Bell (R)
Key outs: Ian Clark (NOP)
Strengths: Scoring, shooting, passing, defending…pretty much everything.
Weaknesses: Thin in the frontcourt.
Verdict: Another title beckons and 70 regular season wins are very much in play…again.

Phoenix Suns
Star player: Eric Bledsoe
Coach: Earl Watson
Last season: 23-59
Key ins: Troy Daniels (MEM), Josh Jackson (R)
Key outs: Leandro Barbosa (FA)
Strengths: Play at a frantic pace (102.8 possessions).
Weaknesses: Youth shows on defence where they had the third-worst defensive rating and hacked the most.
Verdict: Once again will be in the hunt for one of the top draft picks.

Sacramento Kings
Star player: Zach Randolph
Coach: Dave Joerger
Last season: 32-50
Key ins: George Hill (UTA), Zach Randolph (MEM), Bogdan Bogdanovic (EUR), Vince Carter (MEM), De’Aaron Fox (R), Justin Jackson (R), Harry Giles (R)
Key outs: Rudy Gay (SAS), Darren Collison (IND), Arron Afflalo (ORL), Ben McLemore (MEM)
Strengths: Youthful core.
Weaknesses: Will have to deal with massive roster turnovers.
Verdict: Built for the future.

Los Angeles Clippers
Star player: Blake Griffin
Coach: Doc Rivers
Last season: 51-31, lost in first round
Key ins: Patrick Beverly (HOU), Danilo Gallinari (DEN), Lou Williams (HOU), Milos Teodosic (EUR), Sam Dekker (HOU), Montrezl Harrell (HOU)
Key outs: Chris Paul (HOU), J.J. Redick (PHI), Jamal Crawford (MIN), Luc Mbah a Moute (HOU)
Strengths: Spacing, playmaking and offensive balance.
Weaknesses: Durability.
Verdict: In a fight for playoffs.

Los Angeles Lakers
Star player: Lonzo Ball
Coach: Luke Walton
Last season: 26-56
Key ins: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (DET), Brook Lopez (BKN), Lonzo Ball (R), Kyle Kuzma (R), Andrew Bogut (CLE)
Key outs: D’Angelo Russell (BKN), Nick Young (GSW), Timofey Mozgov (BKN)
Strengths: Ball movement should immediately improve.
Weaknesses: Defending.
Verdict: Fun to watch but not a competitive team quite yet.

Southwest division

Dallas Mavericks
Star player: Dirk Nowitzki
Coach: Rick Carlisle
Last season: 33-49
Key ins: Josh McRoberts (MIA), Dennis Smith Jr (R)
Key outs: None
Strengths: Don’t turn the ball over much thanks to their slow-it-down, grind-it-out style and pace.
Weaknesses: Depth is a real concern and key reserve Seth Curry is already dealing with a leg injury with no timetable for a return.
Verdict: Hard to see them being much better than last season, even if Smith turns out to be the real deal, meaning another lottery finish.

Houston Rockets
Star player: James Harden
Coach: Mike D’Antoni
Last season: 55-27, lost in second round
Key ins: Chris Paul (LAC), P.J. Tucker (TOR), Luc Mbah a Moute (LAC), Zhou Qi (R)
Key outs: Patrick Beverley (LAC), Lou Williams (LAC), Montrezl Harrell (LAC), Sam Dekker (LAC)
Strengths: Go bombs away from long range, making the most 3-pointers in the league.
Weaknesses: Susceptible to giving up as many points as they score.
Verdict: Addition of Paul means they’re a tougher out for Warriors.

Memphis Grizzlies
Star player: Marc Gasol
Coach: David Fizdale
Last season: 43-39, lost in first round
Key ins: Ben McLemore (SAC), Tyreke Evans (NOP), Wayne Selden (NOP), Ivan Rabb (R)
Key outs: Tony Allen (NOP), Vince Carter (SAC), Zach Randolph (SAC)
Strengths: Defence should remain their calling card, even after losing some of their identity.
Weaknesses: Shot the worst field goal percentage last year (43.5).
Verdict: Could trade Gasol and/or Mike Conley if writing is on the wall.

New Orleans Pelicans
Star player: Anthony Davis
Coach: Alvin Gentry
Last season: 34-48
Key ins: Rajon Rondo (CHI), Tony Allen (MEM), Ian Clark (GSW), Frank Jackson (R)
Key outs: Donatas Motiejunas (CHN), Tim Frazier (WAS), Tyreke Evans (MEM)
Strengths: Twin towers of Davis and DeMarcus Cousins form one of the top duos in the game.
Weaknesses: Still have to solve their fit issues as offence should be much better considering talent.
Verdict: If things don’t get better, Cousins could be on the move.

San Antonio Spurs
Star player: Kawhi Leonard
Coach: Gregg Popovich
Last season: 61-21, lost in Western Conference Finals
Key ins: Rudy Gay (SAC), Derrick White (R)
Key outs: Dewayne Dedmon (ATL), David Lee (FA), Jonathon Simmons (ORL)
Strengths: Always fundamentally sound and airtight defensively.
Weaknesses: Relying on aging veterans to flank Leonard.
Verdict: May be the best hope of taking down Golden State before the Finals.

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Cast around LeBron James has changed but Cleveland Cavaliers remain kings of the East

Jay Asser 16/10/2017
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The King in the East: LeBron James. Picture: Getty Images.

LeBron James, and the Cleveland Cavaliers by extension, are a sponge for drama.

For a player who has reached seven straight NBA Finals – only former team-mate James Jones has played in June as often in the modern era – there has been no shortage of volatility.

This season, the Cavaliers will deal with new wrinkles that could see the theatre at its highest since their prodigal son returned in 2014.

Kyrie Irving, who was James’ trusty sidekick for three years, is no longer around to flank him and provide relief. On the contrary, he’s now plying his slick handles and acrobatic finishes on James’ main rival in the East, with his focus squarely on taking down the King as the head of the snake in Boston.

In his place after the great point guard swap of the summer is the jilted Isaiah Thomas, who now has a fresh source of motivation but first has to recover from a hip injury that is expected to keep him out until after the turn of the calendar.

The diminutive dynamo is coming off a hyper-efficient, high-volume scoring season in which he averaged 28.9 points to earn a spot on the All-NBA Second Team and a fifth-placed finish in MVP voting.

If he can return to the floor healthy and near his same effectiveness – a big ‘if’ – the Cavaliers should once again be the class of the East, especially considering what came with Thomas from Boston: valuable 3-and-D wing Jae Crowder, young big man Ante Zizic and two draft picks, most notably Brooklyn’s 2018 unprotected first.

The Nets’ coveted pick is indirectly tied into the underlying drama that will not-so-subtly bubble under the surface all season: James’ impending free agency.

James has maintained his flexibility since returning to Cleveland by inking short-term deals with opt outs to maximise his financial worth, but for the first time since donning the wine and gold again, his future appears truly uncertain.

The rumours linking James to Los Angeles and a fourth act with the Lakers have already swirled and until he exercises his player option for the 2018-19 season, they’ll continue to circulate.

Which gives this season added importance for the Cavaliers, who can’t afford to be taken down by anyone other than reigning champions Golden State if they want to continue to provide James the path of least resistance to the Finals.

The Celtics, however, may finally have their opening with the cracks in Cleveland’s foundation beginning to form.

By trading for Irving and inking the marquee free agent to switch teams in Gordon Hayward, Boston have positioned themselves to take over the throne in the post-LeBron era. The question is, are they ready to make their move right now?

Dynamic duo: Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. Picture: Getty Images.

Dynamic duo: Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. Picture: Getty Images.

Only a staggering four players are back from the 53-win squad that captured the top seed in the conference last season, with much of their hard-nosed identity leaving along with Thomas, Crowder and Avery Bradley, now in Detroit.

Under coach Brad Stevens, the Celtics have improved every season since 2013-14, upping their win total from 25 to 40 to 48 to 53. But fitting so many new puzzles pieces together in the face of heightened expectations may be Stevens’ greatest challenge yet.

And no one in the East outside of LeBron will have more eyes fixed on him and be held more responsible than Irving, who asked for a separation from the greatest player in the world with the intention of fulfilling any untapped potential.

The rest of the conference, meanwhile, hosts a glut of middle-class teams in Washington, Toronto, Charlotte, Miami and Milwaukee, but is otherwise up for grabs in terms of the final playoff spots.

While the East can’t match the sheer quality of the other side of the league, the narratives at the top are just as juicy.


Atlantic division

Boston Celtics
Star player: Kyrie Irving
Coach: Brad Stevens
Last season: 53-29, lost in Easter Conference Finals
Key ins: Kyrie Irving (CLE), Gordon Hayward (UTA), Marcus Morris (DET), Aron Baynes (DET), Jayson Tatum (R)
Key outs: Isaiah Thomas (CLE), Jae Crowder (CLE), Avery Bradley (DET), Kelly Olynyk (MIA)
Strengths: Versatility on offence will be downright scary.
Weaknesses: Only four players return from last season’s 53-win team.
Verdict: Cleveland’s biggest threat.

Brooklyn Nets
Star player: Jeremy Lin
Coach: Kenny Atkinson
Last season: 20-62
Key ins: D’Angelo Russell (LAL), DeMarre Carroll (TOR), Allen Crabbe (POR), Timofey Mozgov (LAL), Jarrett Allen (R)
Key outs: Brook Lopez (LAL)
Strengths: Led the league in pace last year with 103.58 possessions so points should be expected.
Weaknesses: Their defensive issues aren’t likely to be fixed, especially with their turnstyle backcourt.
Verdict: It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them crack 30 wins as they’re no longer the worst team.

New York Knicks
Star player: Kristaps Porzingis
Coach: Jeff Hornacek
Last season: 31-51
Key ins: Enes Kanter (OKC), Tim Hardaway Jr (ATL), Ramon Sessions (CHA), Doug McDermott (OKC), Michael Beasley (MIL), Frank Ntilikina (R)
Key outs: Carmelo Anthony (OKC), Derrick Rose (CLE), Justin Holiday (CHI)
Strengths: Stocked with capable roll/pop big men.
Weaknesses: Were 25th in def. rating last year and could get worse.
Verdict: Lottery bound again, but finally fully building for the future.

Philadelphia 76ers
Star player: Joel Embiid
Coach: Brett Brown
Last season: 28-54
Key ins: J.J. Redick (LAC), Markelle Fultz (R)
Key outs: Gerald Henderson (FA)
Strengths: Possess a fountain of youth and young talent.
Weaknesses: Their inexperience will also work against them, especially when it comes to taking care of the ball and limiting turnovers.
Verdict: Even in a cakewalk of an Eastern Conference, they’re not ready to challenge seriously in the playoffs. Reaching the postseason isn’t out of the question though.

Toronto Raptors
Star player: Kyle Lowry
Coach: Dwane Casey
Last season: 51-31
Key ins: C.J. Miles (IND), Ogugua Anunoby (R)
Key outs: DeMarre Carroll (BKN), Cory Joseph (IND), Patrick Patterson (OKC), P.J. Tucker (HOU)
Strengths: Have one of the best backcourts in the league and can often live at the free throw line.
Weaknesses: Notorious for falling in love with mid-range shots but early returns in preseason show promising signs of shooting more 3s.
Verdict: Mostly running it back again, but always lurk behind Cavs.

Central division

Chicago Bulls
Star player: Zach LaVine
Coach: Fred Hoiberg
Last season: 41-41
Key ins: Zach LaVine (MIN), Kris Dunn (MIN), Justin Holiday (NYK), Lauri Markkanen (R)
Key outs: Jimmy Butler (MIN), Dwyane Wade (CLE), Rajon Rondo (NOP)
Strengths: Gobbled rebounds at the fourth-best rate last season (51.7 per cent).
Weaknesses: Have little talent.
Verdict: They could well end up with the worst record.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Star player: LeBron James
Coach: Tyronn Lue
Last season: 51-31, lost in NBA Finals
Key ins: Isaiah Thomas (BOS), Jae Crowder (BOS), Derrick Rose (NYK), Dwyane Wade (CHI), Jose Calderon (ATL), Jeff Green (ORL), Cedi Osman (R)
Key outs: Kyrie Irving (BOS)
Strengths: An offensive juggernaut, from inside and out.
Weaknesses: Defensive lapses.
Verdict: Ceiling is tied to Thomas’ health and the Warriors still being strong favourites.

Detroit Pistons
Star player: Andre Drummond
Coach: Stan Van Gundy
Last season: 37-45
Key ins: Avery Bradley (BOS), Anthony Tolliver (SAC), Luke Kennard (R)
Key outs: Aron Baynes (BOS), Marcus Morris (BOS), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (LAL)
Strengths: Owned defensive glass at a league-best rate last year (81.2 per cent).
Weaknesses: Struggle to score and highly inefficient.
Verdict: In the mix for playoffs.

Indiana Pacers
Star player: Myles Turner
Coach: Nate McMillan
Last season: 42-40, lost in first round
Key ins: Victor Oladipo (OKC), Domantas Sabonis (OKC), Darren Collison (SAC), Cory Joseph (TOR), Bojan Bogdanovic (WSH), Ike Anigbogu (R)
Key outs: Paul George (OKC), Jeff Teague (MIN), C.J. Miles (TOR), Monta Ellis (FA)
Strengths: Floor-spacing bigs.
Weaknesses: Shot selection.
Verdict: In no man’s land.

Milwaukee Bucks
Star player: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Coach: Jason Kidd
Last season: 42-40, lost in first round
Key ins: Brandon Rush (MIN), D.J. Wilson (R)
Key outs: Michael Beasley (NYK)
Strengths: Full of long, athletic players who can wreak havoc.
Weaknesses: Grabbed the second-fewest rebounds in the league last year (40.4).
Verdict: Capable of taking a leap, but still not there yet.

Southeast division

Atlanta Hawks
Star player: Dennis Schroder
Coach: Mike Budenholzer
Last season: 43-39, lost in first round
Key ins: Dewayne Dedmon (SAS), John Collins (R), Marco Belinelli (CHA), Luke Babbitt (MIA), Miles Plumlee (CHA)
Key outs: Paul Millsap (DEN), Dwight Howard (CHA), Tim Hardaway Jr (NYK), Thabo Sefolosha (UTA), Mike Scott (WSH), Jose Calderon (CLE)
Strengths: Always defensively stout under Budenholzer.
Weaknesses: Will be hard-pressed to find consistent scoring.
Verdict: Shifting to a rebuild.

Charlotte Hornets
Star player: Kemba Walker
Coach: 36-46
Last season: Steve Clifford
Key ins: Dwight Howard (ATL), Dwayne Bacon (R), Malik Monk (R)
Key outs: Marco Belinelli (ATL), Miles Plumlee (ATL), Ramon Sessions (NYK)
Strengths: Take care of the ball by limiting turnovers and are solid overall, rarely beating themselves.
Weaknesses: Lack depth and are already dealing with injuries.
Verdict: They’re an unsexy team, but have enough in the East to be a borderline top-four squad.

Miami Heat
Star player: Hassan Whiteside
Coach: Erik Spoelstra
Last season: 41-41
Key ins: Kelly Olynyk (BOS), Bam Adebayo (R)
Key outs: Josh McRoberts (DAL), Willie Reed (LAC), Luke Babbitt (ATL)
Strengths: Sound defensively, had the fifth-best defensive rating last year (104.1).
Weaknesses: Due for a regression on outside shooting efficiency after uptick for several players.
Verdict: Somewhere between the team that started 11-30 last season and the one that finished 30-11.

Orlando Magic
Star player: Aaron Gordon
Coach: Frank Vogel
Last season: 29-53
Key ins: Arron Afflalo (SAC), Marreese Speights (LAC), Jonathon Simmons (SAS), Jonathan Isaac (R)
Key outs: Jeff Green (CLE), Jodie Meeks (WSH), C.J. Watson (FA)
Strengths: Are young and athletic.
Weaknesses: Have a hard time scoring and spacing the floor, finished second-last in offensive rating last year (101.2).
Verdict: They’re well overdue for some wins but until proven otherwise, primed for the lottery again.

Washington Wizards
Star player: John Wall
Coach: Scott Brooks
Last season: 49-33, lost in second round
Key ins: Jodie Meeks (ORL), Mike Scott (ATL), Tim Frazier (NOP)
Key outs: Bojan Bogdanovic (IND)
Strengths: Dynamic backcourt of Wall and Beal keeps getting better.
Weaknesses: One of the best starting lineups in the entire NBA is contrasted by a weak second unit, which didn’t improve all that much.
Verdict: They talk tough and act like contenders, but unless injuries plague Cleveland or Boston, they’ll remain third in the pecking order.

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Nike and the NBA make a Statement with new innovative jerseys

Jay Asser 18/09/2017
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New era: Nike's Statement edition uniforms for all 30 teams.

Welcome to Nike’s NBA.

The brand has now taken over the league’s uniforms and apparel for the upcoming 2017-18 season, something which was anticipated since Nike and the NBA announced the partnership back in 2015.

Over the summer, Nike unveiled teams’ home and away uniforms, or as the brand likes to officially call it, the ‘Association Edition’ and ‘Icon Edition’, respectively.

The final piece of the puzzle came just days ago when Nike introduced the ‘Statement Edition’, which is basically the alternate uniforms all 30 teams will wear at times this season.

Between all three editions, the Statement definitely took the most risk fashion-wise, but before diving into specific looks, lets talk about what Nike is doing with the uniforms that goes beyond just the aesthetics.

The brand introduced NikeConnect, which allows you to experience your jersey like never before.

Each adult-sized jersey will have a NFC (near field communication) chip located on the jock tag that you scan with your smartphone to unlock exclusive player and team content, like highlights, athletes’ music playlists and more.

After purchasing a jersey, all you need to do is download the NikeConnect app on iOS or Android, tap the Nike NFC chip with your smartphone, sign in with your NikePlus account and boom, a treasure trove of content at your fingertips.

You can also take advantage of offers and rewards through NikeConnect, so there’s more incentive than usual to rock your favourite player’s jersey.

We knew Nike would have something up their sleeve when they took over the league’s apparel and this is the kind of innovation that fans can really get excited about. If Nike are doing this in just their first season with the league, there’s every reason to be optimistic that more is on the way.

As far as the style of the Statement uniforms, Nike deserves credit for trying bold looks and not sticking with the status quo.

Some of my personal favourites include Portland’s red-heavy look with nothing but black trimming and lettering. The two-toned uniform stands out and isn’t overdone.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Oklahoma City’s dark blue uniforms. It’s no secret that the Thunder have lacked a distinctive style since the franchise relocated, but their Statement look finally hits the mark and they should consider breaking it out often.

I’m a sucker for grey so Brooklyn’s charcoal unis sit nicely with me. The ‘BKLYN’ lettering across the front is tastefully done and the whole looks just screams modern to me, which is right in line with the borough’s identity.

A couple of the uniforms I’m not the biggest fan of are Golden State’s and Milwaukee’s. I get what both are going for, but the oversized logos on each just make it look like the scaling was off when they were designed.

I’m also lukewarm on Minnesota’s bright green highlighter look. I actually like the placement of their stripes and the overall design, just not the eyesore of a colour. But hey, they definitely stand out.

Some teams who don’t normally have black in their colour palette chose to go dark with their Statement uniforms, like Boston. The Celtics don’t have much to work with outside of their traditional green and white, and their alternates in the past have ranged from ‘whatever’ to ‘why are they wearing these again?’ I’m mostly indifferent on their black Statement editions, but the more I see them, the more I talk myself into them.

Not all uniforms are going to be liked by everyone, that’s just an impossible ask for Nike. But it’s nice to see the brand taking some chances as far as looks, while also innovating. It’s fair to say the NBA is in good hands for the coming years.

The Statement editions will be available November 20 on For UAE customers, an authentic LeBron James jersey will go for Dh799, while a swingman Kevin Durant jersey will cost Dh369.

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