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NBA players struggling to adapt to new Wilson basketball

Michael Holley and Michael Smith explain why they are not surprised that Damian Lillard emphasized his commitment to the Blazers after 76ers fans chanted "We want Lillard."

LOS ANGELES — “It’s no secret, it’s a different basketball.”

Offense is down around the NBA, with players shooting 34.2% on 3-pointers this season, down from 34.6% last season and 35.8% the bubble season. The offensive decline has been blamed on the short offseason or the new foul call interpretations, but trainer to many top players Drew Hanlen posted another theory online last week:

It’s the new Wilson ball.

Ask players about it and there are some nods of agreement, with most public comments coming from Clippers’ All-Star Paul George.

“Not to make an excuse or anything, but I said that about the ball, it’s just a different basketball,” George said after the Clippers’ win Monday night. “It doesn’t have the same touch or softness that the Spaulding ball had. You’ll see this year, it’s going to be a lot of bad misses. I think you’ve seen a lot of airballs so far this season.

“So again, not to put an excuse or blame the basketball, but it is different. It’s no secret, it’s a different basketball.”

Heading into this season, the NBA ended its decades-long relationship with Spaulding to introduce Wilson as the new maker of the official NBA basketball. Wilson tried to make the transition as smooth as possible with limited changes: The new ball is “comprised of the same materials, eight-panel configuration and performance specifications as the league’s current game balls and sources the same leather [used in the Spaulding ball].” Wilson worked with Trae Young, Jamal Murray and others to test prototype balls over the past year as they worked toward the final version.

Yet it feels different, and NBA players are creatures of habit who are not fond of change.

“When we first got the ball the guys, anything new, they were like “why’d they change” and all that, but since the first couple weeks we had the ball I haven’t had anyone come up to me and say anything about it,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said.

The NBA players union wants feedback on the new ball — just don’t tell NBPA president CJ McCollum he’s missing shots because of the ball.

What changes can be made remain to be seen. This is not the ill-fated microfiber composite ball used for a couple of months in 2006, which was so universally hated by the players the league switched back to the standard leather ball mid-season. The Wilson ball is here to stay, and while maybe it can get tweaked the players are also just going to have to adapt.