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New NBA ball gives way to old

January 01, 2007|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

It's out with microfiber composite, in with leather for 2007.

And for most of the NBA's players, that means a truly happy new year.

The league's unpopular decision to switch to synthetic basketballs this season was met with almost universal unhappiness by the players, who complained about the abrasive surface, the erratic bounces and the tendency of the balls to get sticky and hard to grip as they became soaked in moisture from perspiration.

The Lakers' Kwame Brown complained that the balls felt like sponges as the game wore on.

Finally, giving in to the ongoing complaints, the NBA announced that, as of today, the synthetic basketball would join the peach basket and short shorts as relics of other eras.

There weren't any tears being shed at Staples Center on Sunday for the end of the two-month microfiber era.

"I love the leather ball," said the Lakers' Luke Walton. "I haven't felt one in months. "

And what does he think of the synthetic balls?

"Oh, they are good for about a quarter," he said.

Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw, who played in the NBA for 14 years, says he has seen the new balls do things the leather balls never could.

And he wasn't being complimentary.

"The ball they are using now doesn't bounce as high," he said. "It takes funny spins and it sticks to the glass sometimes. I've seen one of these balls hit the glass at the corner of the rim and go straight up." The Clippers' Corey Maggette said: "I think it's great that they're bringing the old balls back, but they never should have changed it in the first place."

There was one dissenting voice at Staples Center Sunday, Maggette's teammate Elton Brand.

"I feel we should have kept it for the rest of the year and get acclimated again over the summer," Brand said.

Lakers broadcast analyst Mychal Thompson, who played in the league for a dozen years, has yet another view. "It won't make any difference," he said of the switch back. "It's all in their heads."

*

Times staff writer Jason Reid contributed to this report.

steve.springer@latimes.com

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