For the NBA, It's a Whole New Ballgame
LYNN NEARY, host:
Time now for sports. The NBA regular season started this week with a new synthetic ball. The reigning champion Miami Heat had a rough start, losing their first game by 42 points to the Chicago Bulls. But there's plenty of basketball to be played before the playoffs in April.
Joining us now is our very own hoopster, sports commentator Ron Rapoport.
RON RAPOPORT: Hi, Lynn.
NEARY: Well, Ron, there's been a lot of talk about this new ball. Do you see it affecting the game at all?
RAPOPORT: Well, the question is whether the players are going to get used to it or keep complaining about it. It's kind of funny. Some say the ball is too sticky when it's dry. And others say it's too slippery when it's wet. I think they got to get their stories straight, Lynn. My favorite comment came from Shaquille O'Neal. He said it feels like one of those cheap balls you buy at the toy store that you can use indoors and out. So this is going to be a subject of conversation for a while.
NEARY: Well, now, that's not the only changes this season. There's been a lot of others as well, right?
RAPOPORT: Well, they've changed the seeding in the playoffs, for instance, the way the teams will line up in the playoffs, which is kind of a big deal after Dallas and San Antonio didn't meet in the conference finals. They met earlier.
They've changed the amount of abuse the players and coaches are allowed to hurl at the referees. Lynn, just the other night, Carmelo Anthony was thrown out of a game against the Clippers, because he complained too much about a foul. So the referees are going to take less guff this year from the players and coaches. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.
NEARY: The refs will be happy about that.
RAPOPORT: Well, they'll be happy. It'll be interesting to see whether the players and the coaches can handle it.
I'll tell you one thing that has not changed, though, and that's the amount of uncertainty as the season starts, about how it's going to end. I mean, you pointed to that game that the Miami Heat lost to the Bulls. Lynn, they had just gotten their rings for last season's championship. Then they went out and got hammered by the Bulls, more than 40 points. I mean, I've heard of wakeup calls, but this is ridiculous. But if you look at the list of, you know, teams that could absolutely win the NBA title, there are half a dozen of them and there's really no line on some of this.
NEARY: Well, what teams are you keeping your eye on, especially?
RAPOPORT: Well, the Heat is good, the Suns, the Nets, the Cavaliers, the Mavericks, the Pistons. I'll tell you what. The way the Bulls played and with the addition of Ben Wallace, they could be a legitimate contender for the first time since Michael Jordan finally, finally retired.
NEARY: And what about the players, because isn't there a kind of generational shift going on now from the Kobe Bryants and Alan Iversons to some of these new guys like Dwayne Wade of the Heat and LeBron James of Cleveland?
RAPOPORT: Well, we're going to hear a lot from Kobe Bryant this year, no question. But it was kind of ironic, or maybe symbolic, actually, that Bryant began the season on the bench. I mean, he was hurt when the Lakers started their season.
Yes, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony - these are everybody's pinup boys now, and they're sort of leading the way of the new group of players taking over the league.
NEARY: Well, Ron Rapoport, thanks so much for talking with us.
RAPOPORT: Thank you, Lynn.
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