Stern: Despite complaints, new ball is here to stay

10/23/2006 - NBA

NEW YORK -- David Stern expected complaints, and he got
plenty of them.

His response: The new ball is staying.

The NBA commissioner said Monday the league is sticking with its
new ball and is convinced it's a better product despite concerns
from a number of players.

That was a much stronger answer than he gave recently when he
was in Europe for a series of exhibition games between NBA and
international teams. Stern said then he would continue to monitor
the situation and test the ball some more. That seemed to leave
open the possibility the new ball would be bounced.

"We've been testing it and retesting it," Stern said. "And I
think that some of the dramatics around it were a little overstated
in terms of the downside and not enough recognition of the

The upside to Stern is that all the new balls, made of a
microfiber composite, feel exactly alike. No two leather balls were
the same. Stern said it was customary for referees to go through a
rack of balls to select the best one before each game.

Still, some players preferred it that way. Some have said the
new ball is too sticky when it's dry; others claim it's too
slippery when wet.

Shaquille O'Neal and Steve Nash are among those wary. O'Neal has
said the new ball "feels like one of those cheap balls that you
buy at the toy store -- indoor-outdoor balls."

"Within certain parameters of the way you want a ball to
perform again and again and again, it is performing extraordinarily
well," Stern said. "It doesn't mean it feels the same; it may not
even bounce exactly the same. It may do all the things that
everyone says it may or may not do, but it's a very good ball and
the tests continue to demonstrate that it's an improvement."

Stern was speaking at the NBA Store, where the league announced
a partnership with the personal computer company Lenovo. But once
that was done, it was back to what has been perhaps the biggest
headache the commissioner has faced this preseason.

NBA officials have stressed that most players grew up playing
with the microfiber composite, but they may have underestimated the
preference players have for leather. That's even after Stern said
Spalding wanted to make the change more than a year ago.

"We said no," Stern said. "We want to go back and do more
tests and confirm to us that this move will be pain free -- which,
of course, it hasn't been."

Stern said he has handled the new ball and doesn't agree with
the complaints that it bounces differently from the old one.

"It may behave somewhat differently in some circumstance or
another ... but I will say that whichever ball you take out of the
box, it's going to behave in that way consistently," he said.
"Every leather ball behaves differently."

"That's the trade-off we're making," he added. "And we think
it's going to make a great improvement."