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Stein's favorite sneakers, cap numbers and a quick game of one-on-one

These past two weeks of All-Time Kicks goodness have to rank as one of the best #NBArank incarnations yet.

A veritable Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus/Fill In Your Preferred Holiday gift unto itself.

No longer, though, can we merely spectate from the sidelines here at Stein Line HQ.

Are you ready for the real top five? (Or at least the top five from a nearly 50-year-old who refuses to believe he's too old to be a sneakerhead?)

Who knows more about rankings, after all, than the Committee (of One)?

Herewith, then, follows our top five hoops kicks of all time:

1. Nike Air Darwin Low Canvas

The Air Darwin is most commonly associated with Dennis Rodman, who wasn't exactly known for inspiring overnight campouts for sneaker seekers. But Rodman's preferred Darwin was actually the leather high-top version. My favorite hoops shoe of all time is the low-top model in glorious canvas: The sexiest hoops shoe I've ever seen. As a rookie beat writer covering the Clippers for the Los Angeles Daily News, I fell in love with the low-cut model when I saw Danny Manning wearing leather lows. Yet it's the canvas iteration that I find utterly irresistible.

Sadly, though, I have only one used pair in my possession. And they're literally falling apart. In my mid-20s, I hadn't yet learned the important maxim that my 13-year-old son has since ingrained in me: Buy at least "one to rock and one to stock" when you know the shoe is an all-timer.

Yet I continue to dream, as I have for countless years, that Nike will bring back the Air Darwin Low (in leather if not in canvas) for a surprise reissue. So if you're reading this, Lynn Merritt or Roy Miller or Nico Harrison, PLEASE!

CHECK OUT MY ENTIRE LIST HERE


Our recent SportsCenter sit-down with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich afforded us the opportunity to finally ask him directly: What changed Pop's mind after all those years he told us that he'd be following Tim Duncan right out the retirement door.

"I made promises," Pop said. "Manu [Ginobili] was doing a contract and Tony [Parker] was doing a contract and they ask what you're going to do, so you say you're going to be there.

"And then when we signed LaMarcus [Aldridge] as a free agent, his agent sat next to him and at the end of the meeting he said: 'Ask him. Ask him. Look him right in the eye and ask him.' And I knew what was coming, so he asked me the same question and I said, 'Yeah, I'll be here.'

"I was still on that contract that I signed a couple of years ago, so I said, 'Yeah, I'll be here for that contract.' So you make those commitments, you gotta stick it out."

This is Year 3 of the five-year extension Popovich, 67, signed after the Spurs won it all in 2014.


The Feb. 23 trade deadline is exactly two months away. Exploratory discussions leaguewide are starting to increase in intensity.

As one veteran exec said this week: "This is the time of year when everyone is deciding if they're going to be buyers or sellers."

Something to keep in mind for background purposes: There are still six teams under the salary floor for this season. It's an unusually high number but also not too surprising after last summer's unprecedented rise in the salary cap to $94.1 million.

Teams are required to spend 90 percent of the cap -- which equates to $84.7 million in 2016-17 -- or pay the shortfall to the players on their current rosters at season's end. Portland ($840,000) and Orlando ($58,000), for example, fell slightly short last season.

It'll be interesting to see how many of these teams try to address the shortfall by taking on salary in deals between now and the deadline.

Editor's note‎: Oklahoma City ($7.22 million) and Indiana ($4.14 million) are two more teams that still possess leftover cap space from the summer but have already exceeded this season's salary floor.


One-on-One to Five with Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood

Q: How would say the season is going so far given all the injuries you guys have had to play through?

A: I think it's going pretty well. We had one of the toughest stretches [schedule-wise] of probably any team in the league starting off and I thought we got through that pretty well. I think we're hitting our stride right now and we're getting better as a team, especially as we get more and more healthy.

Q: What was the team goal for the Jazz coming into this season?

A: To be the best team we can be ... whether that lands us in the playoffs or lands us a top five or six seed in the West. Wherever it lands us, that's the goal right now and we're pushing towards that goal. ... If we stay healthy and stay on the progression we're on now, I think we will be a playoff team. That's where most guys make their name in this league -- in the playoffs -- so that's what I'm looking forward to.

Q: And for you personally what were your expectations coming into the season?

A: Just take that next step. There were certain situations I was in last year where it was my first time, my first full season. So I think just taking another step. I don't know whether that equals to more points or more rebounds, whatever it may be, just take that next step. Being one of the guys that can close games alongside Gordon [Hayward] and Trey [Lyles] and Rudy [Gobert]. Just be one of the leaders of the team as well.

I've really been finding guys on the weak side more and throwing lobs and things like that. I think that's the next step to my game that I'm going to continue to work on. Just making plays for other guys.

Q: What specific advantages does your size (6-foot-7) give you at the guard position?

A: It gives me advantages on both sides of the ball. Defensively it allows you to bother shots. You don't have to crowd guys as much. You can just play with distance. Offensively ... just being able to get into the lane and rise up. Just seeing over the defense and [making] plays for your teammates, so I think that's a plus as well.

I've watched a lot of big guards since I was younger. Penny Hardaway ... I tried to look at his game and take some things. Joe Johnson, who's now with us, is a guy I always watched. Grant Hill, too. I mean, there's so many big guards that came through when I was younger that I watched and [took] things from their game.

Joe makes the game easier for me. A lot of times we're not on the floor at the same time, so he tells me what he sees. He'll let me know whether I'm rushing my shot, if I'm fading or whatever it may be. And then we just work out together every single day, getting shots up. He's just pushing me right now to be the player he thinks I can be.

Q: You probably don't know this, being relatively new to the league, but I'm somewhat obsessed with left-handers because I'm a lefty myself. What do you think being a lefty adds to your game?

A: I think it's an advantage. I watch guys like [Manu] Ginobili, guys like James Harden, and they use it as a strength. A lot of guys grew up guarding right-hand players most of their lives. It's kind of awkward to guard left-hand guys. It kind of throws you off and kind of gives you a little advantage, so I try to use it to the best of my ability.