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LeBron and D-Jones's New Handshake

Back in D.C., unscathed. My flight back included three Wizards wives and several Wizards children. There's nothing like spending a flight listening to the excited chatter of the progeny of Michael Ruffin and Etan Thomas.

Since my kind and beneficent editor had to cut some of my item for today's paper, I'm going to run it here, in full, with a few additions.

The storyline everyone wanted to discuss before Game 2 was pre-game handshake routines. Or at least, that's what I wanted to discuss. The Cavaliers, you see, have a pre-game greeting ritual more choreographed than a Karl Rove-directed ballet. Virtually every player has a specific handshake he bestows on his teammates, leading to dozens of intricate interactions, one after another, a neatly planned procession of palm.

And so I asked two simple questions: where did this ceremony come from, and what does it all mean?

"You probably want to ask somebody else that," Eric Snow said coyly.

"That's between us, man," Ira Newble said.

"You can't reveal everything," Larry Hughes said.

"You've got to ask the king of those," Scot Pollard.

No, not that king. The king of handshakes is none other than Damon Jones. So, Damon Jones, where did this ceremony come from, and what does it all mean?

"No handshake questions," he said. " I can't tell you anything about the handshakes, I'd have to kill you....I do a handshake with each individual guy, and that's sacred. The meaning of the handshakes will not be disclosed in your newspaper."

[There was also much banter with a Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter about American Idol. The CPD has been trying to get D-Jones to sing for them. He's refused.]

Jones would say nothing more than each handshake is based on specific personality traits, but as with all secretive organizations, some leaks inevitably sprang. Jones's handshake with Daniel Gibson involves two hand slaps and a "turn-the-faucet" motion; "turn it on," Gibson explained. With Ira Newble, there's hand slaps and then a raised fist. With Anderson Varejao, hand slaps and a shimmy with arms extended. With Pollard, hand slaps and two strums of an air guitar, an homage to Pollard's musical leanings. (Although "I'm kind of anti-handshake," Pollard admitted. "I'm old-school high fives. I want to bring back the high 10, the dorky 'Yeahhhh, Yeahhh' high 10." Then he went leaping around the locker room, both hands extended. Man, I wish I had my video camera with me for that.)

And with LeBron James, Damon Jones performs an elaborate Matrix-like dance. Well, performed, anyhow.

"How about this, I'm gonna give you an exclusive," Jones said to two reporters an hour before Wednesday's game. "I'm changing it today.... You've got an exclusive, here first: I'm changing it."

Sure enough, during the endless pre-game pause, the king of handshakes and The King of basketball met and slapped hands. Jones swung with a roundhouse left; James ducked. Then came a roundhouse right; Lebron dodged again. Then they hugged. They actually performed this dance twice.

For the record, there are non-Damon Jones handshakes as well. Drew Gooden has a signature hand slap, all the Cavs engage in an elbow lock known as "Cuff Love," Gibson and Shannon Brown rub hands vertically, and many of the veteran reserves engage in a pre-game group hug. Drew Gooden tried to help me understand the pecking order, but it just got more confusing. He said everybody has his own hand shake, but he couldn't tell me what happens when he shakes another hand; i.e., which shake takes precedence.

"It goes through one person, and he's not in here, he's not on the team," Gooden said. "Who's him? Him's downstairs. Oh here we go, here he is right now," he said as he exited the locker room. "This is the guy behind all the handshakes."

The guy behind the handshakes turns out to be a security official who ran away from me when I approached. Literally.

"I don't want any trouble," he said. "I don't know anything about handshakes. I don't even speak English."

Fine. But they all did admit that they have a bloody lot of handshakes.

"We are definitely one of the slowest teams to get to the tipoff," Pollard allowed. " I would agree with that."

By Dan Steinberg  |  April 26, 2007; 1:33 PM ET
Categories:  Wizards  
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