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Bonding on the road -- in movie theatres, museums and inspirational settings

Brooklyn Nets

The NBA road is a long one, with plane trips from one hotel to another. Win or lose, it's grueling.  So teams like the Nets are among those who devote time to finding ways for players --and coaches-- to use the downtime to bond, to unravel, to have fun, to think.

For the Nets, Matt Riccardi, the senior manager of basketball operations, is the guy who sets the agenda, trying to come up with just the right movie, just the right experience, mostly for the whole team, sometimes for small groups. The big draw are advance screenings for big new movies.  For film producers, pro sports teams are the ideal way of getting publicity for their latest ventures.

As Andrew Keh writes in the Times, "Team officials cherish any opportunity to foster camaraderie among players in a controlled environment; the players welcome any assistance in combating the doldrums of the road; and the studios capitalize on a cost-efficient way to put films in front of influential viewers."  Think Twitter, Facebook, etc. where pro athletes have big followings.

He spent some time with the Nets a recent trip where they watched "The Night Before," Seth Rogen's latest comedy. It was a fun time as players raided the concession stands and stretched out in a rented theatre. But it's not just about movies. Keh notes that while the team was. in Memphis, Riccardi accompanied  Willie Reed and Chris McCullough to the National Civil Rights Museum. In Atlanta, the team met with the former sprinter Tommie Smith, a gold medalist at the 1968 Olympics, famous for his black power salute on the podium.

While it may seem like a rainy day activity, as Keh notes, for the team and Riccardi, is nothing more or less than player --and team-- development.