by Lang Whitaker

A few months ago, a box of the new NBA basketballs showed up here at the SLAM Dome. We use them pretty frequently, for photo shoots and stuff like that, and the people at Spalding were kind enough to send us a bunch. We immediately started testing them out and realized the grip is something different, making them much more easy to palm than a regular ball.

This week, as training camps have kicked off, the players are starting to use the new synthetic-covered balls, and reactions have been wildly different…

• Yesterday, NBA exec Stu Jackson showed up at Nets practice to see first-hand what the Nets players were complaining about. Hopefully Jackson didn’t watch Collins the Greater go through some low post drills, fumble a few balls away and then blame it on the balls.

Meanwhile, Jason Kidd takes a commercial approach:

“They probably couldn’t sell [the old balls]. It was an indoor ball. Not too many kids play inside. A lot of kids play outside, so maybe that was the reason. … They put a lot of money into this ball, so I don’t know. We can complain about the rule changes, but we still have to go out there and play.”

• Carmelo doesn’t mind it, Joe Smith doesn’t like it, and Eduardo Najera likes it.

• In Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki gives the ball a thumbs down sign, while Jason Terry notes, “They stink.”

• Rasheed doesn’t like it:

“Terrible. I don’t know why they did it. The thing that (upsets) me about it is, that’s a major part of playing, and you can’t just change it without getting the players’ opinions on the ball before you change it. … They say this micro-fiber thing is better? Nah, give me that old-fashioned cowhide.”

Can’t believe Rasheed would prefer old school to new school. The article also says Flip Murray loves the ball, so there’s that.

• The MVP diplomatically describes what he doesn’t like about it, while Raja Bell says, “It sucks.”

• Gilbert Arenas invents the word “grippy” to discuss the rock:

“The only thing good about it is that it’s grippy when you first touch it. Once it starts soaking up sweat, it gets slippery. Guys are going to be turning the ball over like crazy this year because you can’t hold on to the ball. They’re going to have to play with at least three balls because as soon as a ball hits someone, that ball is dead.”

• Today’s Philly Inquirer goes in-depth on the ball, and includes the following quotes…

Andre Iguodala: “I’ve been using it all summer. It just wears down after about 2 to 3 weeks. The ball used in the summer got old. Now, I’m back to the newer new ball and I haven’t had a good experience with it so far. I guess the only thing you can do is, the more you touch it, the better you are. I have one in my room [at the team’s hotel]. I play with it every night for about an hour.”

Chris Webber: “We’re going to have to do it like baseball, change, like, every five plays. Once it gets wet, it’s terrible; it’s tough, put it that way.”

Willie Green: “I’m not a big fan of the new ball. But it’s what we’ve got to use. We might as well mentally prepare ourselves that this is the ball we’re going to use for the season and deal with it. It’s a little spongy. I’m used to the regular NBA ball. As scorer and shooter, I just like the other ball better. It went through the net better.”

• The Bulls are running against the ball. PJ Brown says it’s very slippery and says it’s “not very good.” Adrian Griffin does like the ball, but then compares it to the ball he used in the CBA, which probably isn’t a good sign. And as Scott Skiles says:

“I don’t like it. I’m not sure if it’s a situation where it’s just going to take time to get used to it, or it’s a bad ball. I’m a little mixed on that. As much as I’ve handled it, I don’t seem to be getting used to it, but I played with the same ball my whole career.”

• The Raptors sound excited about the new ball, and as Chris Bosh notes, if Shaq doesn’t like the ball, is that such a bad thing for the rest of the League?

• Really interesting note at the end here: A composite ball was used during the last two All-Star Games.

• Jarrett Jack and Joel Pryzbilla love it.

• Five of seven Sonics surveyed love the new ball. Then again, they are the Sonics.
• Paul Pierce is very positive about the new ball, which seems incongruous with the rest of the news being reported…until you remember that he has an endorsement deal with Spalding (no mention of that in the Globe, though).

Says Pierce…

“I think players are going to have to make an adjustment [to the ball]. I’ve been playing with it all summer. At first, you’re kind of hesitating, playing with [the ball] one way for so long. But that’s the way it is.

“I made the adjustment over the summer and have no problem with it. You just have to get used to the new feel. It’s a different type of grip, from leather to [microfiber composite]. It’s like going from college to the pros once again.”

• And finally, leave it to Jerry Sloan…

“You know, all 30 teams have to play with it.”

Thanks, coach. My guess is that everyone is upset right now, but down the road, one or two years from now, nobody’s going to care.

It doesn’t help that this has become the go-to story thus far for the media. Last year it was the dress code, the year before that it was the new defensive rules. Everyone needs something to write about.

How much complaining about the dress code have we heard this year?