NBA heeds criticism, may return to old ball
Web Posted: 10/09/2006 01:40 AM CDT
Express-News Staff Writer
PARIS — NBA commissioner David Stern said Sunday the league will consider going back to its traditional leather basketball if Spalding's new synthetic model doesn't hold up to further testing.
Several players, most notably Miami's Shaquille O'Neal, have complained the new basketball becomes too slick when wet.
"We have sent out the most stringent testing crew to see what there is to the issue," Stern said in a round-table discussion with five reporters before Sunday's game between the Spurs and Maccabi Tel Aviv in the French capital. "Right now our plans are to stay the course, but we will monitor it and if we find there is something to it and it is a serious issue, we will take the appropriate steps because the most important thing to us is the game.
"We have gone out and done tests. We have wet both balls. When the leather ball is wet at the end of the game, it is very slippery. But with the new ball, all you have got to do is put in a new ball because they are all the same, all the time.
"One of the benefits Spalding stressed to us is that it is a better ball, it has a more modern approach to the grip that would endure. But the game is uppermost in our mind."
Current NBA rules dictate only one ball can be used during a game. It can be dried with a towel, but can't be substituted for a different ball. A league official, however, said that rule could be altered to allow the new synthetic balls to be switched out when they become too slick.
Stern also said Spalding suggested changing to the new ball.
"They came to us and said they had a technology that will improve the ball," Stern said. "They said that we are the only sport, professional or college — the last sport — using leather and that they had a way to improve it.
"They came to us several years ago and we said we would have to see the technology working. They wanted to launch it one year ago, but we said no.
"We used it in the (developmental league), used it in the summer league, had players test it individually and, a year later, they said they had improved it even more. We said, 'OK, let's go.' So that's what we did."
Several of the Spurs said they don't understand why the league felt the need to change the ball, but think most players will be able to adjust to its feel with time.
"If you shoot flat shots, it's going to bounce off the rim long," Bruce Bowen said. "You may not get a bounce that's as kind. But for shooters, they know how to make the adjustments and get a little more air on the ball."
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