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10.30.2006

Voices against new NBA ball

Professional basketball players from the NBA have complained all month that the new synthetic ball feels and performs differently from the old leather one. And according to results of a new research requested by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, they may be right.

Experts at the University of Texas-Arlington released results of preliminary tests they say proves the microfiber composite ball doesn't behave like the old leather ball. In fact, many of players have griped about its grip and unpredictable bounce since training camps opened.

Cuban contacted Dr. James L. Horwitz, chairman of UT-Arlington's physics department, to try and test both balls _ though the owner says he has no intention of doing anything with the test results.

"Nothing," he told a news agency in an e-mail. "Just try to support the commissioner and the league to the fullest of my ability with the data."

However, according to the results released Sunday, the ball bounces 5 to 8 percent lower than typical leather balls when dropped from 4 feet. It also found that this new ball bounces 30 percent more erratically.

It's important to say that commissioner David Stern dismissed that complaint last week, and said the NBA is staying with the new ball. Cuban said the league must do the same in his internet blog.

Dan Touhey, vice president of marketing for Spalding, expressed that the difference in bounce could be due to the surface it was bounced on, or more likely because of the age of the balls. An old leather ball will bounce more than a new one, as well as a new synthetic ball.

He claims that the leather ball tested had to be an older one, because Spalding hasn't shipped new leather balls to teams since August 2005.

"That ball is maybe out of the NBA's spec, and if it's not, it has a greater likelihood of being so," Touhey admitted. "There was a lot of wear and tear on that ball, no question."

We must say that the league has stressed that one of the advantages of the composite material is that it's easier to grip when it starts to get damp. Despite that, the researchers found that it's less absorbent than leather, causing it to be more slippery when moist.

However, Touhey said one of the strengths of the new ball is that it prevents the absorption of water, which changes the weight of the ball as the match goes on.

"We felt pretty strongly that our tests and the way we conducted them were giving us accurate results," he said. "One thing we don't know is how they wet the material. That's an unknown for us. We tried to replicate the rate of perspiration. We did not dunk it in a basin of water. We tried to replicate game situations in all these tests."

The study recommends frequently drying or changing the balls during the game. An NBA spokesman admitted it is up to the officials' discretion if the ball should be changed during games.