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James gripes about new ball

By Tom Withers The Associated Press

CLEVELAND – LeBron James longs for the NBA’s old bounce. He’s already tired of the league’s new composite game ball.

“It’s not a good basketball,” the Cleveland Cavaliers’ superstar forward said. “It kind of feels like a basketball you buy for your kids at Christmas or something.”

When James first began practicing with the Spalding ball in training camp, he said there would be an adjustment period for players. He didn’t envision it as being any kind of problem for the world’s best hoopsters.

But after the season’s first week, and following harsh criticism by Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash and others, James, too, says the ball isn’t up to standards.

“Sometimes it feels good, sometimes it doesn’t,” James said before yesterday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks. “It’s got no consistency.”

James said he didn’t like the smaller balls used by FIBA at this summer’s world championships in Japan, but that he and his U.S. national teammates got used to it. So far, he hasn’t gotten comfortable with the NBA’s new synthetic model, which replaced a leather version used for years.

Among his beefs with the new ball, James said it doesn’t have the same bounce as the old one.

“Sometimes you can grip it, and sometimes during the game it sticks to your hand,” he said. “It won’t bounce, it will just roll on you. I don’t know why we can’t get used to this ball. But it’s just not good.”

James first tried the new ball in last season’s All-Star game in Houston.

“I was the MVP of that game,” he reminded reporters with a smile. “But it wasn’t because of the basketball.”

James also doesn’t understand why the league changed balls in the first place.

“You can shorten our shorts, tell us how to wear wristbands, things like that. Change the dress code. But the one thing we care about is the basketball,” he said. “When you start changing the thing we play with every single day, it doesn’t make sense to me – at all.”

James is also getting used to the NBA’s new emphasis on stopping players and coaches from whining about calls. Referees aren’t taking any lip, and if they hear or see too much, they’re coming down hard.

“Technicals are being thrown like Peyton Manning passes,” James said. “You have to watch you say and me being an emotional player, I’ve always been passionate about the game. So I’ve got to be cool.”

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