WEARING IT WELL

Raheel Ramzanali: 4 signature shoes I’m excited about for the second half of the NBA season

Russell Westbrook's new shoe will debut next month. Nike.com

We’ve now crossed the halfway mark of the NBA Season and with that comes the second wave of signature shoes from NBA players to hit the market. Traditionally, players released shoes right before the season so they could show off the latest and greatest to sneaker hungry consumers, but now with the rise of how important the NBA All-Star Game has become in fashion and headlines, more and more guys wait until February to launch their official shoes.

Look, I play basketball at least twice a week and it is still my favorite sport to compete in so I like to keep up with the latest technology and comfort when it comes to basketball shoes. I’m the guy that is trying all of the newest shoes out there and reporting back with friends (What’s up, fellow baller Joel Blank!) on the pros and cons of every shoe. We’ve already had LeBron, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Steph Curry announce their signature shoes so I’m not going to include them in this list. So with that being said, I want to rank (by personal excitement) the upcoming signature shoes from NBA players for the second half of the season.

Russell Westbrook’s Jordan Why Not Zer0.1 

To say that I’m excited about this shoe would be an understatement. I keep refreshing my browser to see if Nike somehow messed up and made these available before the Feb. 15 launch date. Westbrook is the most intriguing player to me in the NBA. He plays with a reckless abandonment that people either hate or love. When he’s on the court he’s running all over the place and I’ve always wondered how Jordan Brand would design a sneaker that captures not only his game, but keeps him safe out there playing the way he does. Enter the Jordan Why Not Zer0.1 - Westbrook’s first ever signature shoe. Westbrook has always played in the latest Jordan shoes, but finally we’re given a pair of shoes that are built for his exact specifications. These are by far the most intriguing shoes of the 2018 releases because the tech specs are second to none and the style, like Westbrook’s game, is either a hit or miss depending on your aesthetics since they look like a futuristic shoe tank.  Launches Feb. 15; $125. 

James Harden’s Harden Vol. 2

While this shoe hasn’t been officially announced by Adidas just yet, the Shoe blogs have all but confirmed that they will be releasing within the next month or so. Last year’s Harden Vol. 1 was a huge success since it was the first Harden signature shoe with Adidas AND it featured the most comfortable cushion in the game, Boost. While some performance reviews thought the shoe was a big heavy, the Vol. 2’s look like they will be the perfect combination of weight and comfort with Adidas Boost and what looks like to be a mostly PrimeKnit upper. Like James, the initial colorways of the shoes are unique and very fashion forward. Here’s hoping the Harden Vol. 2’s can help James and the Rockets make a deep run to the finals. Launches TBD; Price TBD. 

Paul George’s PG2

Before last weekend’s matchup against the Cavs, OKC forward Paul George finally announced his much anticipated follow-up to the PG1 with the PG2s. I’m especially excited for these shoes because they are budget friendly at $110 AND include some of the best technology that Nike has to offer with a new Adaptive Lockdown System + a 10mm unit of Zoom Air for the ultimate cushion! As George put it, these shoes are built for guys that play hard on the defensive side, but also like to get buckets. My only beef with these shoes are that they look like the Nike HyperRev 2015 (shoes that PG played in before he got his own signature line) and not something totally new like Westbrook or Harden’s shoes. Launches Feb. 10 (Playstation edition); $110.

LeBron James’ Nike Zoom Soldier 12

One of my favorite things to look for in the NBA playoffs is if LeBron is wearing his actual signature shoes or shoes from his secondary Soldier line. The Soldier line is regarded as the best performance shoe for everyday players since we’re all not freaks of nature like LeBron. Now these shoes aren’t the best looking since they feature straps on straps on straps, but they really are great to play in. I still contend that the Zoom Soldier 9 is the GREATEST performance shoe ever since it has the best lockdown and comfort that was built for a king, but enjoyed by us peasants. Nike hasn’t even announced the release of this shoe yet and really we haven’t seen any leaks regarding the 12th version of this shoe, but as it is with every Soldier shoe, it will be announced in April right before the playoffs. Launch TBD; Price TBD.

Let me know which shoe you’re excited about and what you’re currently playing in by tweeting me @The_Raheel.

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Houston's offense had another strong day at the plate in Seattle against the Mariners on Wednesday. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

After striking a deal with the Mariners before Tuesday's game, along with a reported deal with the Marlins on Wednesday before the finale, the Astros continued to try and bolster their bullpen with fresh arms while also focusing on this series against Seattle. Having won the night prior to even it up, it came down to the rubber game on Wednesday afternoon to decide the series.

Final Score: Astros 11, Mariners 4

Astros' Record: 63-40, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-5)

Losing Pitcher: Yusei Kikuchi (6-6)

Astros continue to score runs in Seattle

Just like in the earlier games in this series, the Astros had no problems offensively. They strung together four consecutive one-run innings, starting in the top of the second when they loaded the bases, then got an RBI groundout by Myles Straw to go up 1-0. In the top of the third, Yuli Gurriel drove one in on a two-out RBI double, bringing in Jose Altuve, who led the inning off with a double of his own. Chas McCormick led off with a single in the fourth, then later scored on an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz.

The fourth run in as many innings came in the top of the fifth, as Gurriel would notch his second RBI with a solo homer to start that inning, pushing the lead to 4-0. They didn't stop there, and neither did Gurriel, as he would get RBI number three on the day as part of a four-run top of the sixth, with RBI hits him, Altuve, Diaz, and Carlos Correa, doubling the lead to 8-0.

Odorizzi gets to the sixth before allowing two homers

The run support gave Jake Odorizzi plenty of leeway, which he didn't need until the bottom of the sixth. He held Seattle scoreless over the first five frames, allowing just four baserunners on a hit by pitch, a walk, and two singles, all peppered over that span and erased in each inning. Kyle Seager would get the Mariners on the board in the bottom of the sixth, blasting a one-out solo homer to cut the lead to seven runs at 8-1. After a single in the next at-bat, recently traded Abraham Toro made it four games in a row with a homer, this one a two-run shot to cut the lead to 8-3 and end Odorizzi's day. His final line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 95 P.

Houston wins the series

Houston brought in Brooks Raley to finish the sixth, issuing two walks but stranding them to keep it a five-run lead. Myles Straw helped push that back to six in the top of the seventh, reaching on a single to start the innings, then stealing both second and third to get in position for Diaz's third RBI of the day, a groundout to make it 9-3. Cristian Javier was the next reliever out for the Astros, but he would not make it through the bottom of the seventh, allowing a single and three walks, the third with the bases loaded to bring in a run.

Bryan Abreu was brought in to get out of the jam, getting a strikeout to end the seventh. Then, in the top of the eighth, Kyle Tucker would put two more runs on the board with a two-run homer making the lead seven runs at 11-4. Abreu remained in for the bottom of the eighth, erasing two one-out singles to get through the frame. Brandon Bielak took over in the bottom of the ninth to close things out, posting a 1-2-3 inning to wrap up the win and give Houston the series victory.

Up Next: Houston will travel down the coast to San Fransisco before getting a day off on Thursday. They'll pick up an exciting three-game series with the Giants on Friday, with the opener slated to start at 8:45 PM Central. Framber Valdez (6-2, 2.97 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, while San Fransisco's starter is TBD.

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