HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Anyone lucky enough to get a seat in the lower bowl of most any NBA arena in the past decade has seen the show that players put on as they prepare for the opening tip.
From the mundane to the hilarious to the downright ridiculous, players have cooked up all sorts of handshake rituals that they go through before players from either side actually make it to center court for the official start of a game.
But what used to last for three and four minutes will now have to be completed in a curt 90 seconds, per a new league rule limiting the amount of time players have to hug, shadow box, frisk each other and Kid ‘n Play kick-step their way to the middle of the court. All of that pregame handshaking, chalk-tossing and pantomiming and picture-taking, well … you get the point.
After the 90-second countdown, on the game clock, and at 30 seconds there will be a horn that warns the players that time is almost up. The game officials will also get in on the party with a verbal warning and if a team isn’t ready for the opening tip at the end of those 90 seconds, they’ll be assessed a delay-of-game warning.
You get two of those and a technical foul will be called.
Some of the more notorious would-be abusers of the new, um, timed-ritual rule (we haven’t come up with a clever name for it just yet) have already let it be known that they’re not fans of this new policy. They’ve already noticed that their creativity can be curtailed by a stop watch, as the Oklahoman pointed out:
“Before Tuesday night’s preseason game against the Charlotte Bobcats at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Thunder players noticeably rushed their routines before stepping onto the court in time for the tip. Three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant was in the middle of his on-court greetings with teammates when the ball was put in play.
“I personally don’t like it,” Durant said of the 90-second rule. “Every player in this league has routines they do with their teammates, rituals they do before the game and before they walk on the floor. The fans like it. The fans enjoy it. You see the fans mimicking the guys who do their stuff before the game. To cut that down really don’t make no sense. Why would you do it? I really don’t agree with it, but I don’t make the rules.”
They certainly don’t make the rules. The dress code. The new ball (you remember that ill-fated test drive, don’t you?). The anti-flopping rule. The rule book/code of conduct grows by the season. That’s just the way it goes in a league that is constantly evolving, even after all of these years.
But the true artists will find a way to adjust and adapt to whatever new guidelines are thrown at them.
Heat star and reigning MVP LeBron James, whose elaborate rituals in Cleveland angered opposing players more than anyone, insists he will not be deterred by a little change to the rules.
“I won’t change it, I’ll be able to work it in,” James told Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. “We’ll figure it out.”
His Heat teammate, Dwyane Wade, another superstar known for an extended set of pregame rituals that involve not only his teammates but he crowd at home games, doesn’t appear to be a fan but also doesn’t seem interested in fighting the powers that be on this one, telling ESPN.com:
“I’ll have to take something away for sure. I’m always going to make sure I show love to the fans. There’s so many rules, I can’t keep up. … There’s no reason to make a big stink. It’s their league, it’s their rules.”
Anything that steps on the toes of the creativity of the players always makes us nervous here at the hideout. We were cautiously optimistic that the dress code would usher in a suave new state of fashion affairs for players around the league and we all know how that’s turned out.
So the rules makers have to be careful with whatever changes they make.
But we can’t see a downside to this latest tweak.
We already have a shot clock.
A pregame ritual clock can’t hurt … can it?