Sportress of Blogitude

Knicks’ RJ Barrett reportedly among players struggling with new Wilson basketball

The NBA switched from Spalding to Wilson basketballs ahead of the 2021-22 season, and evidence continues to mount that there are a handful of players who are experiencing difficulty making the transition.

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix reported during an appearance on the “Crossover Podcast” this week that New York Knicks forward RJ Barrett is “one of those guys that right now is having a little bit of trouble adjusting to the new ball.”

“There’s a lot of those guys out there that are having some issues with the grip on that new basketball,” Mannix continued. “What I was told by one coach was that because the ball hits the rim differently and bounces differently, guys are adding a little bit more arc to their shots. They’re literally changing their shots because of the composition of the basketball and that’s been screwing around with some guys.”

Barrett’s shooting woes this season lend some credence to the belief that the new Wilson ball may be an issue for the Knicks star. During the 2020-21 season, Barrett shot 44.1% from the field and 40.1% from three. In 23 games this season, those numbers have dropped to 40.7% and 34.7%, respectively.

League-wide data document a similar dip in shooting efficiency across the board. As noted by Bleacher Report, this season’s current collective shooting percentage of 45.1 is on pace to be the lowest for the league since the 2014-15 campaign (44.9%), according to Basketball Reference.

While Barrett appears to have not spoken out specifically about the new basketball, several other players have done so. Los Angles Clippers star Paul George made some pointed remarks about the Wilson ball in November.

“Not to make an excuse or anything, but I said that about the ball, it’s just a different basketball,” George said, via NBC Sports. “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.”

Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell similarly expressed frustration over the change, saying last month that the Wilson ball feels new and never gets “broken in.”

“That’s a big difference for us, I think, when the ball is not broken in,” Russell said, via the Star Tribune. “When the other ball was broken in — or if it wasn’t broken in, it still worked a little different. It’s an adjustment for everybody.

“… An old ball doesn’t feel like an old ball,” Russell said. “It still feels like the texture is so fine that it doesn’t wear off … I think that was probably a key focus, they probably wanted to keep balls and keep them fresh, allow the material to stay fresh over time and not wear and tear.”

Amid players’ initial complaints early on in the season, Portland Trail Blazers star and NBPA president CJ McCollum indicated he would “get feedback” from players. That being said, McCollum did issue one caveat.

The Wilson NBA official game 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 currently used in the NBA,” per a league announcement in June.

The Spalding basketball had been in use for the past 37 years before the NBA transitioned to Wilson ahead of this season.