After shootaround Wednesday, Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell was asked if the NBA’s emphasis on calling fewer fouls when shooters take an unnatural shooting motion into a defenders has affected the way he has to play.
Russell didn’t want to go down that path, fearing if he did, he would be criticizing officiating and would then get fined. Instead, Russell brought up another change the NBA made this season — the actual basketballs.
The league switched from a Spalding ball to a Wilson-made ball this season and some shooters like Russell are still adjusting to the different feel of the Wilson ball.
“I’m more worried about the ball change than the rules,” Russell said.
Russell’s shooting has been down compared to his career and last season. He’s shooting 34% from three-point range when he shot close to 39% last season and 36% for his career. From the field overall he is at 38%, though Russell averages more three-point attempts per game (8.5) than two-point attempts (8.3).
Russell said the different feel of the Wilson ball is especially noticeable if the ball is brand new and not “broken in.”
“That’s a big difference for us, I think, when the ball is not broken in,” Russell said. “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.”
Russell said the ball hardly ever feels like it’s broken in, that if he’s using a ball that has been used before, it still feels like new. It’s not an excuse for his shooting, he said, though he still trying to get a good feel for it.
“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.”