N.B.A. to Take Up Complaints With Ball Manufacturer
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDTPublished: December 5, 2006
Four days after the National Basketball Players Association filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board partly over the N.B.A.’s use of a new synthetic basketball, Commissioner David Stern said that the league made a mistake by not closely consulting with the players and that the league would address complaints about the ball with its manufacturer.
On Friday, the player’s association filed grievances with the N.L.R.B. and asked the organization to investigate what it said were the N.B.A.’s unilateral actions. The new synthetic ball and new rules cracking down on in-game conduct have prompted complaints from players since the season began. The players association was upset that its membership was not informed of the changes beforehand.
“I won’t make a spirited defense with respect to the ball,” Stern said today. “In hindsight, we could have done a better job.
“With respect to the ball, I take responsibility for that.”
Players say the new ball, manufactured by Spalding with a synthetic plastic instead of leather, absorbs sweat and sticks to their hands, causing it to not roll off their fingers in a consistent fashion. Some players have also complained that the ball does not bounce off the floor and the rim like the old ball.
“On every test, historically that has been done, this ball tests out much more consistent,” Stern said. “But if our players are unhappy, then we’re unhappy. We get every ball from every team. We go back. We have it taken apart. We do all kinds of tests. And that’s a continuing process.”
Stern added that the league should have listened to the players sooner and would be investigating each player’s complaint.
“Whether or not we did enough prior to it, we’re actually, well, we think this ball has many of the attributes that Spalding says it has,” he said. “It’s an improvement in many ways. But if our players are unhappy with it, we have to analyze to the nth degree the cause of their unhappiness. Everything is on the table. I’m not pleased, but I’m realistic. We’ve got to do the right thing here. And, of course, the right thing is to listen to our players. Whether it’s a day late or not, we’re dealing with this.”
The N.B.A. said it changed the ball to meet the standard of the rest of the world’s basketball leagues.
The players association has been especially upset that ball was introduced without consultation with the union or any active players. Three retired players-turned-broadcast-analysts — Mark Jackson, Reggie Miller and Steve Kerr — were the primary testers. The only N.B.A. players who tested the ball in competition were the members of the 2006 All-Star teams, who used one during last season’s game in Houston.
“We’re talking to every player,” Stern said. “We’re continuing to evaluate it. Every time someone says something about the ball, we get the ball and we send it back to Spalding.”