The Minnesota Timberwolves and Charlotte Bobcats will get the first chance to start putting an odd and somewhat embarrassing chapter in NBA history in the past Monday, as the league’s old ball makes its return in this matchup at Charlotte Bobcats Arena.
The league switched to a microfiber composite ball before the season started, replacing the leather ball that had been in play for the last 35 years. The decision, though, was met with a wave of negative feedback from players and coaches, who said the new ball cut their hands and had an uncomfortable feel.
The players went so far as to file an unfair labor practice charge against the league, which forced commissioner David Stern to relent and switch back to the leather ball beginning Jan. 1.
“It worked. I didn’t think it would,” Cleveland’s LeBron James said. “I can’t wait!”
It remains to be seen, though, whether the old ball will have any effect on performance. The Timberwolves (13-15) are shooting 47.2 percent and averaging 93.6 points through the first 28 games with the new ball. Last season, using leather, Minnesota shot 45.6 percent and averaged 91.7 points.
Charlotte (9-21) is shooting 43 percent and averaging 94.4 points in its first 30 games. The Bobcats shot 43.3 percent and averaged 96.9 points last season.
Charlotte may not be happy to see the old ball so soon. The Bobcats have won consecutive games for the first time this season and have scored more than 100 points in six of their last eight contests. Charlotte scored 100 points in only four of its first 22 games.
After a wild 133-124 triple-overtime win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, the Bobcats beat Indiana 113-102 on the road Saturday, shooting 50 percent for the first time since Dec. 1 against Washington, a span of 14 games.
“It’s about the win and running the offense well,” Bobcats point guard Raymond Felton said. “Playing well and getting wins in back-to-back games just gives everyone else on the team confidence.”
Charlotte won four straight to end 2005-06, but only won consecutive games six times last season. The Bobcats have split four all-time meetings with Minnesota, taking both matchups at home.
The Timberwolves wrapped up a stretch of four games in five days by losing 100-92 at New Jersey on Saturday. Minnesota has dropped its last two road games and four of its last five away from home.
“For the most part, the first quarter is where we didn’t have the focus and the energy you need to win on the road in four games in five nights,” Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey said.
Garnett’s probably more than ready for the old ball’s return. He shot 5-for-14 against the Nets and finished with 17 points. One night earlier, he was 4-for-15 for 10 points in a 101-82 win over Seattle. Garnett is shooting 48.2 percent this season, his lowest since 2001-02, when he shot 47 percent.
The Timberwolves open a four-game homestand after Monday’s contest, while the Bobcats depart on a three-game road trip.