Wed, Dec 13, 2006 - Page 20 News List

NBA to drop microfiber ball, revert to leather model

AP , NEW YORK

PHOTO: AP

The National Basketball Association will abandon use of its new microfiber composite game ball and revert to the leather model beginning on Jan. 1.

The league sent a memo to its teams on Monday, telling them that the change would be made for the remainder of the 2006-2007 season. In the memo, NBA president Joel Litvin said that Spalding had 450 new leather balls ready for use.

"Our players' response to this particular composite ball has been overwhelmingly negative and we are acting accordingly," NBA commissioner David Stern said.

"Although testing performed by Spalding and the NBA demonstrated that the new composite basketball was more consistent than leather, and statistically there has been an improvement in shooting, scoring and ball-related turnovers, the most important statistic is the view of our players," he said.

Players have complained about the new ball since training camp, saying that it bounced differently than the old one -- both off the floor and the rim. They also said the synthetic material damaged the skin on their hands.

"For the league to be successful, obviously the players have to be happy. The basketball is the most important thing to us," said a smiling LeBron James, one of several NBA All-Stars who criticized the new ball.

"Like I said before, you can change the dress code, you can make our shorts shorter, but when you take our basketball away from us, that's not a transition we handle," James said.

Stern told the New York Times last week the league should have sought more input from players before introducing the new ball.

He also said he would address the players' criticisms with Spalding, the manufacturer.

Spalding president and CEO Scott Creelman said in a statement that his company "will work closely with the NBA to ensure a smooth transition and to determine the best product going forward."

The lack of player input about the new ball prompted the NBA players union to file an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board on Dec. 1.

Two-time league Most Valuable Player award winner Steve Nash has said the ball cut up his hands but wasn't looking for a return to the old ball.

"I just thought the timing was strange," Nash said on Monday about the Jan. 1 switch.

The NBA made the first change to its game ball in more than 35 years in June. Though the NBA insisted it repeatedly had tested the ball and found that it was a better product, several star players, including Dwyane Wade, joined in the criticisms. Nash and Seattle's Ray Allen were among the players who recently complained of the damage to their skin.

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