Despite Shaq's complaints, NBA says new ball is better

Some of the NBA's biggest stars say the new game ball is too sticky when dry, too slippery when wet, and too well, not the old one.

The league is convinced it's better, no matter what the likes of Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade or Steve Nash have to say about it.

"Sure, you hear some comments that aren't as positive as the overwhelming majority of people that we tested the ball with," Stu Jackson, executive vice president of basketball operations, said Tuesday. "That's going to happen. Everyone that handles the ball loves the grip and the feel of the ball."

Not Shaq, who said the ball "feels like one of those cheap balls that you buy at the toy store, indoor-outdoor balls."

The NBA's old leather balls are being replaced this season by a microfiber composite model, the league's first change in 35 years. O'Neal blasted the ball Monday, criticizing not only the product, but whoever was involved in the decision to use it.

Both O'Neal and Wade griped about the ball's slick grip when wet, and two-time reigning MVP Steve Nash said the ball has a tacky feel that makes shooting and certain types of passes tricky.

"I certainly won't have to lick my fingers. The ball sticks to your hand. It's a big transition. It's extremely sticky," Nash said Tuesday in a conference call from the Phoenix Suns' training camp in Italy.

The ball looks noticeably different, too: Manufactured by Spalding, it features only two interlocking panels sort of like a pair of hands with the fingers laced together rather than the eight panels found on traditional basketballs.

Nash said it will be a difficult transition, but sounded as though he expected players to figure out how to use it, reports AP.

"We do have a month to get it going," he said. "Right now I would say that the basketball sticks to the floor, it sticks to the backboard. It is different."

Jackson said no matter what the players say, the new ball's grip is an improvement, even when wet.

"If you moisturize a leather ball, it also feels very slick," he said. "But this new ball has a better grip when it's wet than a leather ball."

Players have already had plenty of exposure to the new ball, which was sent to all teams after the All-Star break and to players during the summer.