Miami's newest rookie point guard Shabazz Napier is still learning the NBA game.
While struggling in Summer League, Napier seems to have embraced the fact that he has plenty of work to do in order to prepare himself for the high level of NBA play. While many would agree that Napier has to ready himself for the speed of the NBA, he is very concerned about an intangible that basketball enthusiasts often overlook. Associated Press writer Tim Reynolds reports in an interview that Napier is actually very concerned about how the NBA basketball differs from that used in NCAA regulation play.
NBA basketball is extremely different from NCAA basketball. Firstly, players in the NBA are ultra athletic and the game's speed is accelerated raising the difficulty level significantly. Secondly, there are various regulation differences in the NBA, most notably a wider three-point arc. However, the differences in the actual basketball often go unnoticed, but it is an actual concern for Shabazz Napier.
"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."
Different leagues use different basketballs, and for basketball players a new ball is an issue in each level of AAU basketball. Each level requires a period of transition to get comfortable at the level, but also get a feel for the new ball.
One might argue that a ball should cause no issues for an elite player and Napier is of course a two-time NCAA champion and a highly skilled point guard, but judging from his Summer League performances he seems uncomfortable. Napier spoke out on it saying:
"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."
Reynolds also reached out to another Heat rookie, Tyler Johnson to get his input on the "basketball" debacle.
"It is different. Especially coming out of college. A lot of times, if the basketball gets wet, it gets slippery. Here, you get your hands wet to make it stick. It's slippery on its own. It takes a little while to get that feel for it. It is a little bit different but you kind of forget about it after a while."
While this is a current issue for the rookie point guard, it's also why the offseason is useful in transitioning rookies to a higher level. From what I've seen from Napier in college as well as in interviews with the media, it's no question that he has a spectacular work ethic. I have no doubt that he'll be able to perform by the time the season begins, but getting the feel for an NBA basketball is just one of many hurdles in the rookie journey.