Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, December 11, 2021

bouncing back
What kind of a bush-league sport makes a major gameplay equipment change in mid-season?

A little outfit called the National Basketball Association does. Commissioner David Stern announced the league would revert back to the old-style leather balls on January 1, finally acceding to a chorus of complaints from players over the introduction of the re-engineered microfiber ball.

No word on if the prospect of having to re-jigger most of the NBA team logos over the new ball’s seam-patterns had anything to do with this stunning about-face…

Stern claims that the recurrence of papercut-like injuries to several players’ fingertips — a result of the friction caused by the microfiber — was what finally convinced him to make the switch back. A formal complaint by the players’ union with the National Labor Relations board over the both the hassles of the new ball, and the way in which it was basically forced down the players’ throats, suggests a more compelling reason for the league to ditch the new rock, and points to underlying problems in the business of pro hoops:

As much of a mistake it has been to ramrod the new ball into use without real feedback from NBA players – and sorry, summer leagues don’t count – the way Stern dismissed the complaints was worse. Truth be told, there was a real arrogance in rejecting the players’ issues as a nuisance. Here was the most essential tool they use in the game, an orb that connects them in every way, and until now, Stern’s stance bordered on disrespectful.

Of course, there are instances that the commissioner has to rule unilaterally for the good of the sport. In the end, no league can function as a democracy. Still, this was an instance where a stand-down never needed to happen, where the players association never should’ve had to file a grievance with the National Labor Relations board.

“I don’t know if it’s ever been a partnership,” NBA Players Association president Derek Fisher told Yahoo! Sports last week. “I know we have attempted to make it that way (but) very rarely has it felt like a partnership. For us, it feels like we’ve had to generally react, or defend, or stand up for things that we believe in.

“We’ve very rarely been sought out for advice before things have been decided.”

This hardly sounds like the ideal players-owners relationship in a league that, not long ago, rivalled the NFL as a near-perfect working model of professional sports. This might be an indication that the glory era of the NBA has passed, and that whatever success the league is experiencing now is coming almost despite itself, and under constant threat from organizational dysfunction. Is a decline far off?

Beyond that: Has the new ball had any impact on games? I’d assume the new ball would lead to more turnovers and less scoring as players had to adjust; but I haven’t heard much serious squawking about that. If the effect’s been scant, then how valid have the complaints been? On top of that, there’s now grousing about making the switch in mid-season, when a re-re-adjustment will be necessary. All in all, an uncharacteristic mess in hoopsland.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/11/2021 10:18:21 PM
Category: Basketball | Permalink |

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  1. EQUIPMENT CHANGES: NHL 1, NBA 0…

    It ain’t often that the hoops guys can take a lesson from the professional puckheads, but the development of new, streamlined hockey uniforms is a prime example:

    The uniform shift is bound to spark controversy among players and hockey traditionali….

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