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Shabazz Napier blames rocky adjustment to NBA on the ball

Aug 25, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT

2014 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Getty Images

Shabazz Napier got into a weird Twitter feud misunderstanding something with LeBron James, but that was the least of concerns for the Heat rookie point guard.

In summer league, Napier shot 28-for-102 (27 percent) and had more turnovers (38) than assists (34). Despite his billing as one of the NBA’s most ready draft prospects, he really didn’t look prepared for the top league.

What gives?

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

“I just want to continue to get better at everything,” Napier said. “But my biggest thing is getting comfortable with that basketball. That’s one of my biggest problems and it’s kind of ironic, because it’s a basketball. But it’s different than a college basketball.”

“The funny thing is, I never really touched an NBA ball until I left school,” Napier said. “I told myself I never wanted to. I felt like it was superstitious, like something bad was going to happen, like I had to earn it. I never touched it and it’s definitely different. This ball is leather and the biggest thing for me now is getting comfortable with it.”

At UConn, he used a Nike ball, and one of the quirks of the college game is that different teams use different types of basketballs. In the NBA, it’s uniform, with Spalding being the only ball used.

If Napier is still griping about the ball’s texture in training camp, that’s a problem. For now, it’s just illuminating.

We know so much about what makes the college-to-pro transition difficult. The players are bigger and faster. The 3-point arc is farther back. The off-court distractions that come with having money are greater.

But small issues like this get overlooked, and they matter. Switching balls is not overly difficult, but it’s not a seamless task, either.

Napier should be fine, but this is a look into why he didn’t own the summer league. There’s still plenty of time for him to figure everything out.

  1. arb927 - Aug 25, 2014 at 7:31 PM

    This really shouldn’t have been a problem after the first week of playing D league…

    • joeypeepee - Aug 25, 2014 at 8:35 PM

      If he never used the NBA ball before, it takes longer than a week to adjust. It seems slightly heavier and can effect your jumper.

      • duhwighthoward - Aug 25, 2014 at 9:07 PM

        maybe to a weakling like you

  2. mrlaloosh - Aug 25, 2014 at 7:41 PM

    Wow……….. . . .!

    • muhangis - Aug 27, 2014 at 4:37 AM

      wow what?

  3. csbanter - Aug 25, 2014 at 7:47 PM

    Blame this on Lebron, Riley would not have picked Napier if Lebron weren’t so Cavalier about his intentions.

    • sixerstrong - Aug 26, 2014 at 8:19 AM

      No, blame this on Riley. No GM (especially PAT FREAKING RILEY) should be taking drafting orders from one of their players.

    • muhangis - Aug 27, 2014 at 4:40 AM

      Yes they would have. Heat needed a talented point guard direly. And somebody who could likely contribute immediately (expecting or enticing Lebron to come back.) Nobody at that draft spot fit the bill more perfectly than Napier!

      With or w/o Lebron’s input, the outcome is still the same!

  4. mackcarrington - Aug 25, 2014 at 7:56 PM

    He’s superstitious? Does he think it’s sacred like the Stanley Cup or something?
    Maybe they could let him use his own WNBA ball. It’s smaller. But this is the guy who sat around in his dorm room starving instead of taking advantage of his scholarship food allowance. Perhaps he spent that money all on weed.

    • demasane - Aug 26, 2014 at 2:28 AM

      Shabazz stole your girl man? Easy on the kid, he just made a comment about a basketball. That being said I don’t think it’s the sole reason why he played poorly this summer, nobody expects him to be a star in the league anyways

  5. sportsfan18 - Aug 25, 2014 at 7:59 PM

    The ball says you just aren’t very good Shabazz…

    Cleveland fans… your G.M. said that you have to pick this guy if you need a point guard…

  6. cantonbound13 - Aug 25, 2014 at 8:23 PM

    Excuses, excuses. He’ll fit in great with the whiney Heat.

  7. topdawg4ever - Aug 25, 2014 at 10:08 PM

    Next he’ll be blaming the shoes. C’mon man!

  8. dinofrank60 - Aug 25, 2014 at 11:04 PM

    He never played with a leather ball in pickup?

    • 00maltliquor - Aug 26, 2014 at 12:45 AM

      I KNOW RIGHT!??

      That being said, he’ll be fine. He’s just pulling excuses from the sky when he doesn’t have to. He’s the Heats best PG. Take a ball home woth you and practice with it. At the end of the day a ball is a ball. You’ll find that you’ll like this ball better. Trust me.

  9. campcouch - Aug 26, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    I still need the truth about this pick. Did that tweet by LeBron really cause his selection or was Riley truly high on him? I thought Early would’ve been better or Hairston to give Wade a break.

    • muhangis - Aug 27, 2014 at 4:44 AM

      Yes they would have, he was a piece to their starting 5. Heat needed a talented point guard direly. And somebody who could likely contribute immediately (expecting or enticing Lebron to come back.) Nobody at that draft spot fit the bill more perfectly than Napier!

      With or w/o Lebron’s input, the outcome is still the same!

      Early and Hairston merely play the same position as Lebron and Dwyane, respectively. Neither can fulfill their big pg need.

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