NBA Rumors: Knicks' RJ Barrett Among Players Having Trouble Adjusting to New Ball

Adam WellsDecember 8, 2021

New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) shown during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)
AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.

New York Knicks forward RJ Barrett is among a group of players who have struggled to adapt to the new basketballs being used by the NBA this season. 

On the Crossover Podcast (starts at 43:30 mark), Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix noted that Barrett is "one of those guys that right now is having a little bit of trouble adjusting to the new ball."

Much has been made so far this year about the differences between the Spalding ball that the league used for the previous 37 years and the Wilson ball that has been implemented for the 2021-22 campaign. 

Mannix explained some of the issues plaguing players thus far:

"There's a lot of those guys out there that are having some issues with the grip on that new basketball. 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."

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, who is also president of the National Basketball Players Association, told reporters in November he would talk with other players to "get feedback" about the basketballs. 

CJ McCollum @CJMcCollum

It is not the balls fault I missed shots lol. That’s the shooters fault. For the record <a href="https://t.co/pEQbYt3bVk">https://t.co/pEQbYt3bVk</a>

Paul George of the Los Angeles Clippers addressed the contrast between the balls after a 99-94 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov. 1. 

"Not to make an excuse or anything, it's just a different basketball," George told reporters. "It doesn't have the same touch or softness as the Spalding ball had. You'll see this year, there's going to be a lot of bad misses."

Wilson general manager Kevin Murphy told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News in October the only real difference is the new ball contains more pebbles to enhance grip. 

Based on the results from approximately two months of games, there has been a noticeable dip in shooting efficiency throughout the NBA. 

Per Basketball Reference, the league's collective shooting percentage of 45.1 this season is on pace to be the lowest since the 2014-15 campaign (44.9 percent). 

Three-point shooting numbers are even worse, with the current 34.7 percent success rate on track to be the lowest since 2003-04 (34.7). Teams are attempting 35.5 threes per game, which would be the most in a season in NBA history. 

Barrett's shooting stats have plummeted after his breakout 2020-21 season. He's made 40.7 percent of his attempts (34.7 from three) in 23 starts after shooting 44.1 percent overall and 40.1 percent from beyond the arc in 72 starts last season.