Joe Harris was presented with an experiment this week in China. Could he tell the difference between basketballs used in NBA games and FIBA World Cup competition. Sure he could, but really, it shouldn’t matter that much.
After all, who knows more about shooting than Joe? He was the leading 3-point shooter in the NBA this year at 47.4 percent and won the 3-point contest at the All-Star Game. In fact, some hot shooting at the beginning of next season and he’ll be in the top 10 of 3-point shooters ALL-TIME. He’s 11th now at 42.74 percent, just behind Steve Nash at 42.78.
So Joe Vardon of The Athletic thought he’d press Harris on all manner of ball questions. As Vardon noted, “Like Google maps or Fox Sports Go app, an NBA ball just doesn’t work over here.” There are differences between the balls used in different competitions … as Harris noted.
The balls used in the NBA and FIBA competitions are indeed the same size (29 ½ inches round), but on the FIBA ball there are more seams and they’re closer together.
“I always try to get my fingers on the seams, if you can or if you have time,” Harris said. “But, for (the FIBA ball), you catch it, even though there are more seams to it, I’m not getting lost on the ball trying to find it.”
There are other differences that come into, well, play.
“An NBA ball, when it gets a little bit wet, it gets a little stickier in your hands,” Harris told Vardon. “Whereas this one is more like the ball you might play with in college, where they’re spongier.”
And a FIBA ball is harder to grip than an NBA ball if it has too much air, which can happen, depending on the venue, in international play. But Harris pointed out that an experience shooter —like himself— should be able to get beyond that, particularly if the shooter —like himself— played for years of college ball.
“You play with different balls all the time in college,” he said. “A Wilson is going to feel different than a Nike ball, a Nike ball is going to feel different than The Rock, The Rock is going to feel different than the Sterling basketballs that Wisconsin used.”
“If I had to guess, you could probably go around to every guy on the team and ask them about what the ball feels like in the game, and nobody would make a comment about it being that different, because you’re not really thinking about it or noticing it.”
Ah, you say, what about the mental difference brought on by the physical differences of the FIBA court where in some cases, the 3-point line is a foot closer than it is in the NBA. Too tempting?
“When we were in Vegas and everybody was shooting around, we had to be real cognizant of where the line was, because everybody was shooting it real deep,” Harris said. “In Brooklyn, we have a four-point line they want us to stand behind. The Rockets do the same thing. It’s just to get optimal spacing on the floor.” (Four-point line?! Cool!)
In FIBA games, Harris said, “I’m not toeing the line, but I’m cognizant of exactly where (the line) is. To me, I know it’s closer, but it doesn’t feel like it’s a ton closer.”
In the World Cup opener vs. the Czech Republic, Harris made 2-of-3 from deep. And tomorrow morning U.S. time, he’ll be out there again, hoping to tickle the nylon from long range.
“We are all privileged and honored to be here, but we also have that competitive streak in us where we are here to uphold the gold standard that USA has had in the past Olympics, past World Cups and past World Championships,” he told Brian Lewis.
No doubt two of his teammates, 2014 World Cup MVP and gold medalist Kyrie Irving and 2010 gold medalist Kevin Durant will be watching from the U.S. So Joe knows what’s expected of him: bring home the gold. No excuses. Because Ball Don’t Lie.