Testing the Basketballs: An Interlude, With An Actual Expert
So I happened to run into Spalding senior marketing manager John Salay the other day, and we had a long conversation and examination of the two basketballs. Everything made more sense. I'll give John his say.
He said that Spalding introduced a composite (synthetic) ball in the early '90s, and that in designing the NBA's new synthetic ball, the company wanted to duplicate the feel of a broken-in leather ball. "Consistency" was a word he used a lot, the same argument used by David Stern. Leather balls pick up dirt and moisture and don't let go, while all that stuff sort of wicks off the surface of the synthetic ball. So the leather ball will get heavier and slowly lose its perfect shape and grip over the time, while the composite ball should maintain its weight and feel for a longer period of time.
We performed the water test, but Salay wanted me to keep watching both balls after we drizzled them with water. Sure enough, the water pooled on the surface of the composite ball--I guess leading to the initial slickness--and then dripped away, but it soaked into the leather ball. You could actually see the stain on the leather ball long after the water test, but the composite ball looked like new after a few minutes. And having received the balls when they were brand new and then dribbled them all around town, I can report that the composite ball is in much better shape right now.
Salay also said that he's been told shooting percentages are up this preseason, and that turnovers are down, compared to last preseason.
"The composite ball's superior," he said. "It's just going to take guys time to get used to the difference....We're happy with it. The [negative] publicity obviously hasn't helped, but the players are getting used to it and we don't anticipate any problems down the road."
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