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NBA's New Ball Might Not Last Much Longer

October 11, 2006|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

Is the new NBA ball close to getting bounced out of the game?

As more players voice complaints about its slippery grip, the NBA has decided to take a closer look, a move welcomed by many Lakers.

"I'm not surprised," forward Lamar Odom said, nodding in the direction of a rack of the new balls. "I think Mr. [David] Stern likes everything uniform. As you can see, all those balls look exactly the same. They're cute.

"Other balls, they change color [when wet], they have different flavors, but you can depend on those things. When [the new ones] get wet, guys perspire on them, they get real slippery."

The NBA changed the ball for the first time in 35 years, using a micro-fiber composite instead of the traditional leather because of what it said was a "superior grip and feel."

Most players simply feel irritated.

Shaquille O'Neal compared the new ball to a cheap toy-store type. Steve Nash wasn't thrilled, either. Kobe Bryant used a more politically correct analogy, saying he would prefer to stay "old school" with the leather ball. Odom recently predicted that games would be won or lost this season because of the ball, by a fumbled pass or muffed layup.

No doubt hearing the rebellion from his New York City office, Commissioner Stern said the league would examine alternate possibilities, if necessary. In other words, old school might become cool again.

"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," Stern told reporters last weekend before an exhibition game in Paris.

Stern also revealed the brief history of the new ball.

"Spalding came to us and said they had a technology that will improve the ball," he 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 [Development] 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.' "


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