Depending on who you ask, the NBA’s decision to limit the length of players’ pregame routines is either a time-saving measure or a restriction on personality.
In a rule change announced this week, the league will require players to be in position for the opening tip-off 90 seconds after the player introductions end. “It’s about speed of the game,” said Henry Abbott of ESPN’s True Hoop blog. “I really feel for the league here because it looks like they’re anti-fun.”
And the penalty for being late?
“You get a delay of game warning,” Abbott explained. “One of them is a freebee basically, but the second one is a technical foul. So, it could affect the game.”
The routines are often fan favorites and show up NBA DVDs and highlight reels.
“They always have these moments of LeBron James shaking some talcum powder in his hand and shooting it toward the sky or different, fun handshakes,” Abbott said. “The league likes that fun, they’re all for it, but if you think about it, 90 seconds is a pretty long time for it. They’re trying to do a different fan-friendly thing, which is to make the game end earlier so you can get home and get a good night’s rest.”
Some fans may be bitter about the clamp-down, but Abbott sees it as fan-friendly in a different way.
“I wrote a column about how the games just took too darn long, and a time out that’s supposed to be by rule 120 seconds, it ends up lasting three minutes,” Abbott said. “I think the NBA is sensitive to this complaint that games just take too long. I think they felt like they were leaving plenty of time for good celebrations or high fives, or whatever you need to do, hug your long-lost teammate.”
As far as these pregame pump-up routines go, the Oklahoma City Thunder will likely suffer a cut to their preparations.
“They have this really kind of fun-loving bunch of guys,” Abbott said. “They’ve developed a thing where just before tip-off, they get from the trainer a Tupperware of all different kinds of chewing gum, and they pass it from player to player in a very particular order, and if it gets screwed up, the whole thing has to be started all over again. They screw it up routinely, and it takes much longer than 90 seconds.”
The NBA has also enacted a rule to limit “flopping” to draw a foul call. The penalties start with a warning and jump to fines ranging from $5,000 to $30,000 for repeat offenders.
“Top players, [including] Chris Paul [and] LeBron James, are using a fairly constant tactic, the idea of just acting, to get a call or to embarrass the refs. Chris Paul spends all night trying to work the referees with various deceptions,” Abbott said. “Once you watch that you kind of just wish you could see him use all that mental energy on beating the other team, not the refs.”
When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell makes changes it seems to reinforce his tough-guy image, but Abbott says the NBA Commissioner David Stern may have less iron-fisted intentions.
“I don’t think Commissioner Stern needs to worry about his tough-guy image. He drops the hammer on any issue he wants to whenever he wants to. This time I think he got caught in the crossfire of just trying to make the game faster. I think 90 seconds is pretty long for a high-five.”