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NBA adds time limit for pregame rituals

By Ben Golliver

Kevin Durant and company will need to curb their pregame excesses this year. (Shane Bevel/Getty Images)

Guys. Hey, guys. Guys? Can you please stop shaking each other's ankles, put down the bongo drums, stop hanging on the rim, turn off the salsa music, lay off the talcum powder, place your invisible nunchucks back in their case,  quit dapping the ballboys, and come over here so we can get this game started?

That's right, everyone's favorite circus -- an NBA court moments before tip-off -- is set to be a touch more orderly this season.

The Oklahoman reports that the NBA is instituting a 90-second time limit from the end of player introductions to tip-off. The new rule will establish a clear window for how long teammates can enjoy each other's company before the jump ball.

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.”

What adjustments will Durant make?

“Maybe I've got to go a little quicker,” Durant said. “I've got to make sure I acknowledge all my teammates before I walk out on the floor. That's just how I am. That's how we are as a team, guys do their thing, their handshakes. I do the tying [of] the shoes, the praying. I've just got to speed it up.”

ESPN.com reports that a delay-of-game warning would be assessed in the event players are not in place and ready to go at the proper time.

The push-back from players is to be expected. This new time limit comes off as a bit petty and random. Tip-offs can be delayed at the last minute to accommodate television partners and games can be halted over and over for television timeouts, but players can't take a few extra seconds to pump each other up? Not only does this have the appearance of yet another nickel-and-dime rule on a long list of them (dress code, can't leave the bench area during skirmishes, jerseys must stay tucked in, taunting technical fouls, new anti-flopping rules,  etc.), but it also cuts into a very personal time for players. Durant lays out that feeling nicely: Some long-standing traditions and team-building exercises must now be modified.

The NBA's rationale on this isn't entirely clear, but at first glance this feels less like Big Brother and more like throwing a bone to the referees, who are in the unenviable position of cattle herding night after night. The league doesn't appear to be limiting the type of activities that can go on in the handshakes and, in the past, it's helped celebrate the routines of its star players. Cameras are trained on LeBron James' chalk toss before every game; Jeremy Lin's Bible-reading routine with former Knicks teammate Landry Fields was a sensation. The NBA 2K13 video game includes pregame rituals and, over the summer, the NBA even put together a YouTube-ready highlight video of the best pregame rituals from last season.

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There's slippery-slope potential here, to be sure, but the NBA has traditionally been fairly receptive to player individuality, especially in comparison to the NFL. Ninety seconds feels long enough to accommodate any reasonable routine. Just look at a few of the the things players have managed to do in less than 90 seconds.

Corey Maggette and Monta Ellis jog in place, dance, execute a fake boxing match and interact with all of their teammates.

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James high-fives, low-fives, salutes, chest-bumps, slide/dances for the camera, takes a fake picture, does an Arsenio Hall fist pump and then chalks his hands.

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The NBA doesn't seem to be aiming to become the No Bro-hug Association. It's not outlawing or even really cracking down on the activities, just trying to rein them in a bit. You can picture a room full of satisfied referees, sipping on cold ones after successfully pitching the league office to eliminate this pet peeve, knowing that they can just get on with the show now.
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