This is their sanctuary. Make no mistake about it. In hockey, for instance, you don't dare step on the logo, even if it is embedded into the carpet. Show respect or be shown the door.
The press is welcomed in for a limited time before and after games. In most cases, you can take a seat next to a player to have a private conversation, as long as the player next to him isn't occupying his stall. When that guy arrives, you get up. You don't stand on his towel, even if he just dropped it on the floor. You don't touch the post-game spread set up on the table in the middle, no matter how appetizing it looks.
And something you almost never see - ever - is an opposing player. It's extremely rare. Once in a while, you may see a Knick poke his head in the doorway of the visitor's locker room at the Garden. They send a locker room attendant to fetch a friend and the two chat in the hall.
But to actually go in the room? That's bad form.
Or is it?
Before Wednesday's game here in Boston against the Celtics, a familiar voice suddenly cut through the quiet. There was Nate Robinson, all dressed in green, offering whussups to his buddies and former teammates. Robinson had spent most of the previous day with these guys at the team hotel, playing cards, getting lunch, catching up.
You can understand why he would feel comfortable in the Knicks locker room. He had spent the last four-plus years here and had only been gone a few weeks. No one seemed to mind a player from the other team had infiltrated their room, where the dry erase board had notes from the game's strategies scribbled all over. At least no one said a word about it.
He was back after the game, albeit a lot less ubiquitous. Robinson poked his head in a side door and gave a wave to a few friends. David Lee returned an offer of best wishes and good health.
Perhaps this is just simply the fact that the Knicks are going nowhere and Robinson knows it and the players know it. If this game were about playoff berths or positioning, if these teams were anywhere near being on the same plane, perhaps Robinson knows better than to waltz in the front door before the game to slap a few palms and crack a joke or two.
I mean, no way Kevin Garnett lets any of the former Celtics in his locker room before the game, right?
Then I find out Eddie House was in there before the media was let in. OK, so he won a ring with those guys a little less than two years ago. That has special meaning. But shouldn't that kind of fraternization at least wait until after the game?
Shouldn't someone stop either player at the door and say, politely but firmly, "Hey, you shouldn't be in here. If you want to see someone, have them come out and meet you in the hallway."
There should be a code. It should be enforced.
There should be greater respect to the sanctity of a locker room.
Or maybe I'm just ranting some get-off-my-lawn rhetoric here.
* * *
* - JR Giddens made his Knick debut after he was cleared by team doctors earlier in the day. He did OK, with four points, two assists and two rebounds in 13:25 and definitely looked like he needed to find some synchronicity in his game, which is expected for someone who has been out with injuries.
I noticed Giddens has a tattoo of a shamrock behind his left ear. He said he got it after the Celtics drafted him with the final pick (No. 30) in the 2008 NBA Draft. It was a few weeks after the draft and he was in Los Angeles and decided it would be a good thing to do.
It's almost like tattooing your girlfriend's name, I thought. But he disagreed. "They were my first team," he said. "They brought me into this league. This is where my career started."
He said he doesn't plan on having the tattoo removed and doesn't at all regret it.
The Celtic shamrock might be out of place for someone who is, at least for now, wearing a Knicks uniform (believe it or not, there actually was a time -- albeit brief -- when the Knicks and Celtics had a legit rivalry...ask Walt Frazier about it). But I joked that having that tattoo already removes him from having any chance to play for the Lakers.
He didn't find that as funny as I did.