Stern admits introduction of new ball was mishandled

Updated: December 5, 2006, 10:48 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Commissioner David Stern acknowledged Tuesday that the NBA should have sought more input from players before introducing its new game ball.

New NBA Ball
AP Photo/John Marshall MantelDavid Stern took responsibility for not consulting with more players about the new ball before introducing it.

"It's an improvement in many ways," Stern told the New York Times in a story posted on its Web site Tuesday. "But if our players are unhappy with it, we have to analyze to the nth degree the cause of their unhappiness."

Stern said he will address the players' criticisms with Spalding, the ball manufacturer, but some are ready to get rid of it.

"I don't think anybody would complain if they take it away, I'll tell you that," Miami guard Dwyane Wade said. "Hopefully, we'll get back to the other balls."

Heat teammate Antoine Walker said Stern needs to take action.

"Saying and admitting that you're wrong is not good enough," Walker said. "Right now we just need to get back to the old ball. That's what guys are comfortable with and are used to playing with, and what we prefer."

Players have complained about the ball, changed from leather to a microfiber composite, since training camp began. They argue the ball bounces differently than the old one, both off the floor and the rim. The new synthetic material is more sticky when it's dry, but players say it's more slippery when wet -- which the league and Spalding deny.

"Everything is on the table," Stern told the paper. "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 lack of player input about the new ball prompted one of the two unfair labor practice charges the union filed with the National Labor Relations Board late last week.

"I think it's never too late from a league point of view," Seattle guard Ray Allen said. "From a player point of view, at least we know it's not falling on deaf ears. At least it's trying to be handled and worked with."

Some of the league's biggest stars, from Shaquille O'Neal to LeBron James, have been among the most critical of the ball.

"You worry about that ball, and it kind of keeps you from doing what you have to do with it," Suns guard Raja Bell said. "I let that go. But I do think they should have probably asked guys. If you aren't going to ask the whole league, at least ask your superstars, the guys who make you the money."

Stern said he understands why the players feel as they do.

"I won't make a spirited defense with respect to the ball," Stern told the Times. "In hindsight, we could have done a better job.

"With respect to the ball, I take responsibility for that."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press