NEW YORK (AP) – The NBA will scrap its new microfiber composite ball and bring back the old leather one beginning Jan. 1, an official told The Associated Press on Monday.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement of the switch was not due until at least Tuesday.

The swap was first reported by espn.com.

Players have complained about the new ball since training camp, saying that it bounced differently than the old one – off the floor and the rim. They also said the synthetic material cut their hands.

NBA commissioner David Stern told the New York Times last week the league should have sought more input from players before introducing the new ball.

He also said he would address the players’ criticisms with Spalding, the manufacturer.

“As David has said, everything is on the table,” said NBA spokesman Tim Frank, who would not comment on the switch.

The lack of player input about the new ball prompted one of the two unfair labor practice charges filed by the union with the National Labor Relations Board on Dec. 1.

Two-time league MVP Steve Nash has said the ball cut up his hands but wasn’t looking for a return to the old ball.

“I just thought the timing was strange,” Nash said Monday about the Jan. 1 switch.

The NBA unveiled the first change to its game ball in more than 35 years in June. Stern joked at the press conference that he liked it better because his name appeared on it twice.

But it’s been no laughing matter.

Shaquille O’Neal compared it to one of those “cheap balls that you buy at the toy store, indoor-outdoor balls” when the Miami Heat opened camp.

Though the NBA insisted it repeatedly had tested the ball and found that it was a better product, a number of All-Stars, including LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, joined in the criticisms. Nash and Seattle’s Ray Allen were among the players who recently complained of the damage to their skin.

The ball was used in events at the last two All-Star games.

and was tested in summer league and Development League play. It also is used at the amateur levels, so most players grow up using it.

But the league and the players differed on the way the new ball handled. Though both sides agreed it was stickier when dry, the NBA and Spalding said it gripped better when wet. Players said they had more trouble gripping it when it became moist.

“The players, it was just tough on them because I think (the NBA) kind of just sprung the ball on the players instead of giving them fair warning,” said Celtics All-Star Paul Pierce, who participated in the press conference introducing the ball.

“When you’re playing with something for so long and then it’s time for change, it’s hard to accept.”

AP-ES-12-11-06 1842EST


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