Players had better get used to handling new NBA ball
Posted: Thursday October 12, 2006 1:36PM; Updated: Thursday October 12, 2006 3:50PM
The NBA's new ball isn't exactly drawing rave reviews.
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
It's the talk of the NBA so far during this year's preseason. No, not Amaré's comeback or Stephen Jackson's wild escapades or even the Sixers losing an exhibition game to a Spanish pro team. It's the ball, stupid.
Everybody, it seems, is talking about the NBA's decision to switch to a new microfiber basketball, replacing the old leather ball in use the past 35 years. The league says the new ball is superior. Better grip. More consistent. More durable.
The players aren't so sure. They say the new ball is too sticky at the start. Then when it gets wet, it becomes slippery. They wonder why the NBA felt the need to change. They wonder if it's some kind of marketing thing with Spalding, the official provider of NBA balls.
Heat center Shaquille O'Neal ignited the controversy last week when he called the new ball "terrible" and said it was "the worst decision" the league has made.
"It feels like one of those cheap balls that you buy at the toy store, indoor-outdoor balls," O'Neal said. "I look for shooting percentages to be way down and turnovers to be way up, because when the ball gets wet you can't really control it. Whoever did that needs to be fired.... I might get fined for saying that, but so what?"
My take on the controversy? With apologies to the Diesel, I don't think he's going to win this one. My guess is that it's going to blow over, just like last year's hullabaloo over the dress code.
Granted, I'm basing this opinion on a very unscientific survey: Wednesday night's exhibition game between the Wizards and the Bulls at Chicago's United Center.
After spending much of the pregame and postgame inquiring about the new ball with players, coaches and team executives from both teams, I came away with two distinct impressions: 1) the ball is definitely an issue, and 2) nobody really believes anything will be done about it -- at least not this season.
Here's a brief sampling of some of the comments about the ball itself from players Wednesday night:
Bulls guard Ben Gordon: "It's pretty much the exact opposite of the old one. Way, way more grip, but when it gets wet it's really, really slippery. The other one starts off kind of slippery, but once you start to play with it and sweat absorbs into the basketball, you get more grip. So it's definitely different."
Wizards guard Antonio Daniels: "It's an adjustment. It's sticky. I have huge hands, and it's hard for me because it's sticky. But when it gets wet, it's very slippery. With the old ball when it got wet, it actually got better. The leather soaked up the sweat or whatever. This ball just gets slippery."