Pitchers, outs, news conferences: It has all become standardized.
Even the plays called for each half have largely been lifted from the playbook of the 30 male professionals: seven minutes for halves, two for the first, eight for the second and at least three for extras.
And it’s what you’d call “action” instead of “passion.” Not to worry, though. Handshakes are still allowed after every pass, every play, every timeout.
The NBA season is called “neat,” because players are so squeezed into such small spaces – with the biggest timeouts taking up less than one minute out of the clock – that they really aren’t getting a whole lot of room to move. Still, the leagues and franchises try to make as much action happen as possible.
One doesn’t have to go far beyond the Washington Wizards locker room at Verizon Center, for example, to see there are double beds in each of the lockers. Practice and games are housed in half-day windows, and space is freed up only by players, trainers and referees doing conditioning running, followed by stretching, various drills and then an hour’s courtside Q&A.
First, however, players, the Wizards and the Wizards owners had to agree upon a basic way to keep the volume on. The Wizards said they tried and abandoned two single-lane ramps heading toward the locker rooms, figuring that would be too loud when they already had noise on their side of the locker room. Instead, they settled on one lone — but cavernous — double lane.
“There were some really trying moments in making this work,” Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said in a team interview in November, “because we had to squeeze everything in and think of everything we were doing and communicate with everybody, with the players being here on the floor. That was a full-on job.”
The policy change was also the spark for the Orlando Magic’s new locker room, which includes a dimmable LED in the ceiling so you can walk into a one-hour, windowless time machine. (Don’t even think about sweating that LED.)
But there are also lower-profile, less polarizing moves the league has made to accommodate player privacy and accommodate players wanting to change or maneuver around their lockers more comfortably.
“Back in the old days, these lockers would have been glass,” said Knicks assistant general manager Allan Houston, who played for the Warriors and Rockets in the 1980s. “Guys are looking around, like, ‘This is my house. This is what I’m working for.’ And it’s nice to be able to go in and change and work and go out and change again.”
These changes often carry several layers of detail and study. First and foremost, each NBA squad had to try out the new lockers for a few games to make sure everything worked as intended, without adding to the noise issue. The Wizards began work on the new facility last January and opened the doors to a new locker room, which have red bricks instead of the original brown, in June.
Another piece of the equation is how the locker rooms got their name. The general assumption – even among those who fully support the policy change – is that the “probable” player has a field named after him for part of the season. The Wizards, for example, nicknamed the facility the “first-round surgery clinic” when the team needed to put up $82.6 million to sign point guard John Wall in 2012.
Last fall, the Wizards started playing pick-up games in the locked-down new locker room, and the name came from one of their gym rats, Keith Sissel, the senior vice president of the team’s corporate facilities. Sissel, a retired former NBA guard, had three children and two parents who also played in the league.
So, when he went through a surgery and couldn’t bend down to pick up a phone, he broke the sink by himself. So when he needed to start eating the same foods every night to prepare for practice and games, he broke his refrigerator.
“No training program in the history of sports has required such daily repetition,” Sissel said. “It would not be unheard of for a player to go through 15 different enemas a day during the season.”
But the lockers, he said, both “fit and welcome athletes,” even those, like him, who have chosen not to play anymore.