- Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com
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NEW YORK -- The NBA is taking steps to cut down on pregame handshakes and rituals that have become popular with players in recent years. Starting this season, as soon as player introductions are finished, there will be 90 seconds put on the game clock, and teams will be expected to be ready for tipoff after that time.
The guideline will eliminate or severely cut down on the routines that players from most teams go through before games, which often include a series of handshakes with their own teammates before greeting opponents. It also could legislate out individual rituals like LeBron James' famous chalk toss, which he abandoned last season during the playoffs, though James said he'll try to get it done in the limited time.
"I won't change it, I'll be able to work it in," James said. "We'll figure it out."
Over the years, as the elaborate handshakes and other routines have become extended -- for example, Shaquille O'Neal famously created teamwide skits acted out before Phoenix Suns games three seasons ago -- games have routinely taken five minutes or longer to begin after the starting lineups were announced. The NBA is attempting to speed up the start of games.
Players have been advised of the initiative during the annual meetings with referees in the preseason as part of the league's "points of emphasis."
"There's a 90-second countdown, it is placed on the clock," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said. "At 30 seconds, there's a warning horn and alert by the refs. At the end, teams need to be ready to tip off or face a delay-of-game warning."
Two delay-of-game warnings would result in a technical foul.
Players around the league are already reacting negatively to the new policy.
"I personally don't like it," Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant told The Oklahoman. "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 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."
The Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade is one of the league's most active players before tipoff, usually greeting fans on all four sides of the arena, doing pull-ups on the rim and having a series of handshake routines. He said he'll have to adjust to the new rules.
"I'll have to take something away for sure. I'm always going to make sure I show love to the fans," Wade said Wednesday in Miami. "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."
ESPN.com Miami Heat writer Tom Haberstroh contributed to this report.
The NBA is attempting to speed up the start of games by cutting down on pregame handshakes and rituals that have become popular with players in recent years.