NEW YORK -- There's a new dribble move that's become a weapon of choice for the league's top point guards. It's already been used once during All-Star Weekend and could be used again in Sunday's main event.
You can thank the synthetic ball for all that. In 2006, the NBA announced it would switch from its trusted old leather basketball to one laced with a microfiber composite. It proved to be a disaster: players were not consulted before the change and complained endlessly about cuts on their fingers. Then-commissioner David Stern finally stopped the experiment after two months and we never heard about the gaffe again.
But Chris Paul noticed something strange about the ball after messing around. When he whipped his hand under the ball, he generate enough backspin for it to bounce easily back to him. It wasn't that difficult to control.
"They were switching the balls to a different material, where I could actually throw it out away, really far from me and it can still come back," Paul said.
Thus, a new move was born. While Paul wasn't the very first human to try this unique dribble, he was the first to take what was once used by AND-1 Mixtape legend Grayson Boucher (aka "The Professor") and make it NBA-functional.
"I'm not dunking over anybody, so I've got to come up with little tricks like that," Paul said.
Paul's peers are now making it a part of their games, too. John Wall was so convincing in a game against the Bulls that ESPN's Mike Breen thought he lost control of the ball.
Jeff Teague embarrassed DeMarcus Cousins last year with that move and has used it extensively in other situations this season.
Kyrie Irving's tried it too. More recently, Minnesota's Zach LaVine pulled it off during the Rising Stars Challenge.
With so many imitators, there are bound to be disputes over who was first. Wall captured national attention for the move, annoying Teague. He claimed to use the move during one of his first college games against Cal-State Fullerton in 2008.
"He's trying to say it was his," Teague said, smiling wide. "I have a problem with that."
Paul Millsap backed his teammate, saying "he's the inventor of it." Wall, for his part, admits he didn't invent anything.
"I'm not going to say it's mine," he said. "I just used it."
Others credit Paul for bringing it into the league first.
"I've seen Chris Paul use it years ago, but not recently," Houston's Patrick Beverley said.
"Everybody's trying to make it my move, but [Paul's] been doing it a long time," Wall said. "I just did it."
But why is this move popular now? One theory: it's a way to combat stifling pick and roll coverages. Most teams have their big men hang back, which surrenders some space to the ball handler, but also protects the rim and prevents speedy point guards from turning the corner.
These guards must manipulate that little space. So, they use the move essentially as a fake pass to rolling big man. When the defender reacts, suddenly there's more space to shoot a floater, jumper or layup.
"If you're coming off a pick, you might want the big to think he's sure you're throwing the pocket pass," Milwaukee's Brandon Knight said. "You do that, he drops back, and you can stop, shoot a jumper or keep going."
That's exactly how Wall used it to freeze Pacers big man Luis Scola in early November. Scola was perfectly positioned between Wall and the rolling Marcin Gortat. But then Wall used the move and Scola, thinking the ball was going to Gortat, went flying. That gave Wall just enough time to sneak a right-handed layup off the glass.
The move isn't for everyone. Inspired by his peers, Portland's Damian Lillard tried it out during a practice session. It went poorly.
"I realized how hard it was," he said. "So I was like, 'I ain't even gonna mess with it.'"
Phoenix's Isaiah Thomas is in a similar boat.
"I haven't done it because I feel like I'm going to turn the ball over if I do it," he said.
Knight, meanwhile, insisted he doesn't actually need it.
"It's not one of my moves that I have to use," he said. "I just go by people."
But don't be surprised if that changes. This new dribble move doesn't have a universal name -- most pros agreed "yo-yo dribble" was the most descriptive -- but it will soon. And while Paul may be the pioneer, he doesn't feel the need to throw his hat into the naming ring.
"I don't know," he said when asked if he had a name for the move. "People have got too much time on their hands."