CLEVELAND -- Camaraderie is a key to a long run through the NBA Playoffs, and perhaps no one knows that more than the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers know what it means to work, but also, the importance of having fun throughout the process, and the most outward sign of the camaraderie that exists inside the locker room comes in the form of handshakes and celebrations during introductions and pivotal points in the game.
“It’s the battle of who can have the coolest handshakes,” Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson said. “I think Shump has coordinated most of his handshakes with everyone. He’s the one that kind of picks it for all of the guys that he has a handshake with. Shump is very creative, and you guys could tell.”
According to Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love, the culture of well-orchestrated handshakes started when small forward LeBron James was in his first tour of duty in Cleveland from 2003 through 2010.
“I don’t know if I was in the league yet, but I remember when Mo Williams, Shaq and all those guys were here,” Love said. “That’s when they were doing the bowling stuff, they were taking the photos, and that sort of thing.
“That evolved. Miami kind of made it cool, and then, it was kind of adopted and brought here by LeBron, and then, it’s evolved. Everybody kind of has their own handshake. Everybody has their own way of expressing themselves. It’s just part of who we are.”
Over the first two rounds of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, there have been plenty of handshakes and celebrations on the Cavaliers’ bench.
The Cavaliers became the first team in the 2017 NBA Playoffs to clinch a spot in the conference finals when they closed out the four-game sweep of the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semifinals with a 109-102 win in Game 4 at Air Canada Centre on Sunday, May 7.
With the win, the Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to record back-to-back four-game sweeps over the first two rounds of the playoffs in consecutive seasons. The Cavaliers have won 11 straight postseason games dating back to Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals at the Golden State Warriors.
“You never see guys shying away from it,” Love said. “It’s part of our culture here. It’s part of who we are. I know it seems like a simple thing, but it just shows that we’re close-knit. We’re a tight unit.”
As fun as it is to see his players celebrating, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue just has to laugh sometimes because they can remember choreographed handshakes and celebrations, and yet, still have blown assignments on the court.
“I wish we could remember some of the defensive schemes that well,” Lue said. “Guys come to the side and, ‘My bad. I forgot.’ They remember all this and all that, but I don’t know. I don’t know where they come up with all that stuff at.”
But to Thompson, not forgetting is more an act of pride than of focus.
“You know the camera’s always rolling, so you don’t want to be the one that messes up,” Thompson said. “You’ve got to be prepared because there’s not much going on right now, just basketball and handshakes. I know that’s pretty much what we’ve got going on during the season.”