Thirteen-time National Basketball Association All-Star center Shaquille O'Neal is no fan of the new balls to be used by the NBA this season, and isn't afraid to say so.
"I think the new ball is terrible," O'Neal said yesterday. "It's the worst decision some expert, whoever did it, made. ... The NBA's been around how long? A hundred years? Fifty years? So to change it now, whoever that person is needs his college degree revoked. It's a terrible decision."
It's only the second time in 60 seasons the NBA has changed its game balls, and the first time in 35 years.
The new model, the league said in a release, "is a microfiber composite with moisture management that provides superior grip and feel throughout the course of a game."
O'Neal, along with many of his Miami Heat teammates, strongly disagree.
"Feels like one of those cheap balls that you buy at the toy store, indoor-outdoor balls," O'Neal said. "I look for shooting percentages to be way down and turnovers to be way up, because when the ball gets wet you can't really control it. Whoever did that needs to be fired. It was terrible, a terrible decision. Awful. I might get fined for saying that, but so what?"
Other factors cited by the league in changing the ball is so that ones used in games will be uniform throughout the league, and that the leather models needed a breaking-in period that won't be necessary with the composite.
"I don't like it, because it's different," Heat back-up center Michael Doleac said. "You get used to something, you don't want to change it. ... But in three years, we'll probably all look back and not be able to imagine playing with anything else."
The new composite will be the third type of ball Heat guard Dwyane Wade will use in four months. Last season's finals were played with the traditional leather ball, then the FIBA World Championship used a ball that was slightly smaller than the NBA model - something Wade spent most of the summer getting familiar with.
"Now I've got to make another adjustment with a ball that I haven't shot with at all and it's going to be a challenge," Wade said. "That means it's going to take a lot of late nights for me, I'll tell you that, to get really adjusted to the ball because I have no choice."
Wade said the biggest complaint players have with the new ball is the slippage factor, as in how much grip will be lost when players' hands sweat and that moisture gets on the ball.
"Hopefully over time, you'll hear nothing about it and we'll all stop complaining," Wade said. "But I think rebounds are going to go up this year. All around the league, I think there's going to be a lot of bricks thrown up there early on."