Paul George had a bad few PR years. From nicknaming himself Playoff P, calling Dame’s dagger a bad shot, blaming Santa for a loss, to trying to throw Doc Rivers under the bus. While we’re programmed to brace ourselves when we hear George starts a sentence with “Not to make excuses,” this time, he might have a point.
It’s the ball!
As you may have noticed, shooting is down in the NBA. Most notably, guys like Steph and Dame have been having uncharacteristically bad shooting streaks. Many theories have been floated as to why this is the case, and Paul George was asked to share his.
Paul George on players struggling shooting with the new Wilson basketball:— Farbod Esnaashari (@Farbod_E) November 2, 2021
"Not to make an excuse or anything, it's just a different basketball. It doesn't have the same touch or softness as the Spalding ball had. You'll see this year, there's going to be a lot of bad misses."
Anyone who’s played a game in his life knows that this is a real thing. If it impacts weekend hoopers, it will undoubtedly impact guys who perfect their shot with one kind of a ball. As we covered, Steph’s taken his shooting to a level where only perfectly centered shots (and not just swishes) are counted as made baskets in workouts. It’s like giving a surgeon a new set of tools – it’s going to take time to adapt their craft.
Wilson will surely take input from players and try and improve the ball, so it reaches the “touch and softness” of the Spalding ball. When the move from Spalding from Wilson was announced, it was quickly pointed out that Wilson would keep using leather from the same supplier. That’s because of one of the worst fiascos in NBA history.
The Spalding synthetic
The reason we know players aren’t exaggerating when they talk about the feel and softness of a ball (apart from personal experience) is the 2006 microfiber ball fiasco. Coming into that season, David Stern proudly announced that the NBA and Spalding are introducing a new, better ball. It allegedly showed a better shooting percentage, lower turnover rate, and an overall improvement in performance.
Stephen Jackson immediately said it “feels like it’s plastic,” Steve Nash actually got cuts on his fingers similar to papercuts, and Dwyane Wade said his bank shot was non-existent, adding that his “game-winning shots, I’m telling you, it’s [in the] past.” The ball just had no predictable bounce, as demonstrated by Vince Carter.
Stern and Spalding admitted defeat after three months of relentless criticism from the players and brought back the old leather Spalding ball. In classic Stern fashion, he did add the NBA, and Spalding did extensive testing and found the new ball to be superior. But, he admitted the most important opinion is that of the players.
Time will tell if Paul George was just making excuses, or players start talking about the new ball as an issue. The only thing is, in 2009 Spalding had a leather backup in their pocket. For Wilson, this is it, so they better get it right. We know it’s not the supplier, so all the pressure is on them.