The Cavs' Handshakes, and the Bench Mob
One of the more striking things about Sunday's Game 1, to my mind, was the Cavs' pre-game meet-and-greet. This is after introductions, but before the game started. It was an elaborate dance of elbow bumps and hand waggles, of precision finger movements and well-timed partner-swaps. In case that makes no sense, this is what I'm saying: it seemed like every single Cavs player had a specific handshake ritual with every other player, which would make for, well, a lot of different handshakes.
I figured this topic would have been exhaustively documented in the local media, but when I asked the Cavs PR people about this, they said to their knowledge no one has written the comprehensive handshake story. Unconscionable, if true. Because of some issues at the security gate, I missed most of the Cavs after shootaround, so I was left chatting with the youngsters. I'll do more research on this tonight.
But the Cavs PR folks filled me in on the basic outlines; that it started with Larry Hughes, Damon Jones and LeBron slapping hands four times and then placing their hands on their hips, and grew from there and just kept growing. Now Eric Snow and LeBron slap hands then hit each other from behind. Donyell Marshall offers up closed-fist hugs. Scot Pollard (I think) doles out what's known as "Cuff Love," a sort of inner-elbow interchange. Damon Jones and LeBron James do their weird Matrix-influenced dance. The PR people agreed that the number of these transactions has "definitely accelerated" this season, and the whole routine is more choreographed than a Karl Rove-directed ballet.
"There is an order to it," Senior VP of Communications Tad Carper confirmed. "Certain things happen at certain points. There's a sequence, a ritual."
Damon Jones is the ringleader; apparently he actually does have a unique handshake for every single teammate. Dwayne Jones told me that Damon unilaterally decided on their move: three hand slaps followed by the crossing of arms. With Ira Newble, it's three hand slaps and then the Black Power sign. With Shannon Brown it's three slaps and then a point at each other. With Daniel Gibson it's two hand slaps and then a simulated faucet turn.
"Turn the faucet on, it's raining threes," explained team spokesman Amanda Mercado.
"And then on the bench, I know the older guys have something they do before the game," Dwayne Jones told me, describing a sort-of group hug. "Got to be 30-plus for that group, I've got a while for that," he said. "I don't know, they're maybe too old to be hugging like that."
Brown and Gibson also have a routine; two hand slaps and then they shake their hands up and down vertically.
"It's just like camaraderie; we know we're a family and we've got to go out there and get it done, that's it," Brown told me.
"And shake hands while you're doing it," I pointed out.
"Yup," he said.
So I asked the Wiz what they made of all this pre-game tango.
"Oh they've got too much time on their hands," DeShawn Stevenson said. "I mean, we do a little jumping thing before the game, but other than that, I think that's too much time on your hands if you've got 15 handshakes."
More than 15, probably. But when I asked Roger Mason about all this, I made an interesting discovery. There's some sort of hand ritual some of the Wizards bench players are making lately, down by their feet. They call it the Bench Mob.
"I'm not going to tell you about it," Mason said. "Just check it out tonight."
Brendan Haywood was similarly discrete.
"It's kind of like an "M" for the Mob, held down, but I can't tell you everything about the sign," he said. "It's a secret. Secret handshakes, secret society."
But Haywood told me about the Mob's origins. It formed specifically for the playoffs. The reserves tried to outwork the starters in practice, and every time they made a play one of them would yell "Bench Mob!" and then "from there it took off," he told me. And they have another routine, besides the "M" Sign.
"When the Cavs introduce their team, the Bench Bob comes out, that's our introduction," Haywood said. "We don't get a formal one, so when they're introducing the Cavs, we all come out like it's our own introduction, one at a time. When LeBron James comes out, Andray Blatche comes out. When Ilgauskas comes out, I come out. When Larry Hughes comes out, Roger Mason comes out, and so on. The Bench Mob consists of me, Mason, Donell Taylor and Blatche, and when they introduce the other team it's like they're introducing us."
I pointed out that he had named only four Bench Mobsters.
"Darius plays too much minutes to be on the Bench Mob," Haywood told me.
Like I said, I'll aim to get some more details on the Cavs' handshakes in a few minutes, but it won't be up here until tomorrow. It's just incomprehensible to me that the full routine isn't posted somewhere, either in text or video. If you find it, let me know.
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