After many years, in 2023 I’ve decided to watch the NBA playoffs again. But to be very honest, I wasn’t exactly aware they’d already begun, so the first game I watched this year was the 112-100 Phoenix Suns victory over LA Clippers at the Crypto.com Arena.
It was a great game (as any playoffs game usually is), and towards the end of the 4th quarter, the Brazilian Amazon Prime narrators were talking about LA Lakers, who also happened to be at the playoffs and also host their games at Crypto.com. This called my attention and made me wonder about the very well coordinated work that must happen to allow for fast floor setup; after all, these teams play every other day and — I didn’t know —, still have to share the floor with the LA Kings hockey team.
Because of having worked many years with the lean manufacturing principles, I wondered about the standard work behind the scenes. And as I’m eternally curious about everything, I decided to do some quick research. Luckily for me, I found this piece of LA Times news published last April 19th — from where I’ve shamelessly stolen the title of this very same post you’re now reading —, where reporters Brian van der Brug and Kelvin Kuo had coincidentally raised the same floor change question, after a Clippers versus Blazers match.
The first thing I learned was that behind the floor changes there’s a group of up to 60 Crypto.com Arena workers who turn the Clippers court into the Kings’ ice and back again to the Lakers wood boards when needed. The second thing I learned is that this change process can take up to 2 hours of work. That’s one amazing feat.
The LA Times reporters captured everything and created a 2 minute time lapse video, in which all the action, very disciplined, choreographed and standardized, was captured. Take a look:
Finding out that the ice is always below the basketball court’s floor, protected by rubbers panels blew my mind. Also, the slight differences between setup times for basketball to hockey and basketball to basketball matches — 120 minutes from wood to ice, when 112 plexiglass panels are also setup around the playfield, and 90 minutes when the work is to change the 266 Clippers’ wood panels for the 232 Lakers’ panels or vice-versa —, are also impressive, given the magnitude of what has to happen and the tight time window they have to work with, not to impact the arrival of the teams, their practicing before the games and also the reception and entrance of the teams’ supporters.
I’ve also found an older YouTube video, from 2017, where the basketball court conversion is performed. On it, Ed Flewelen, the then Operations Manager for the then Staples Center, says he’d been doing this setup work since September 1999, and that from that moment on he and the team, 45 people on average, never missed a deadline. According to him, on average, 15 to 17 basketball to basketball conversions are made every season, and they got to perform conversions in only about 60 minutes!
He also mentioned on the video the admiration and respect other Arenas have for the work they perform, and how they receive personnel interested in training and benchmarking, what, for me, besides all the recorded footage, only contributes to confirm the work of excellence these people do.
According to his LinkedIn, Flewelen left on May, 2018 to work at the USC Galen Center, after 18 years and 9 months of dutiful services, which went on with the other guys: the LA Times report and video were made to mark the milestone of 250 conversions made by the team.