In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. the NBA, along with the other major sports leagues, is taking precautionary measures and preparing for possible games without fans.
The league already closed the locker rooms to the media. It last week advised players to no longer shake hands with fans and instead use fist-bumps as a means to avoid the spread of the virus. On Wednesday the owners are reportedly set to discuss what further actions to take, which includes playing games in empty arenas or, perhaps, postponing games.
The Warriors were faced with that decision on Saturday against the 76ers, when the San Francisco Department of Public Health advised the cancellation or postponement of large gatherings, which included concerts and sports events. The Warriors, in concert with the NBA, opted to play the game and have fans in the arena.
Steph Curry didn’t play in the game because he was out with an illness, but the team said after running a test he had a basic seasonal flu and was not at risk for coronavirus.
Some players, initially, were against the idea of playing games without fans. LeBron James, for one, said he would not play.
“I ain’t playing if I ain’t got fans in the crowd,” he said last Friday. “That’s why I play for… that’s what it’s about.”
A few days later, with more information about the virus and the increase in cases around the country, LeBron adjusted his tone.
“Well it’s funny, because when I was asked the question of would you play without no fans, I had no idea that there was actually a conversation going behind closed doors about the particular virus,” he said on Tuesday. “Obviously, I would be very disappointed not having the fans, because that is what I play for. I play for my family, I play for my fans.”
In Italy, the entire Serie A professional soccer league has been suspended as the country is on lockdown due to the virus. Here in the U.S., Santa Clara County, which neighbors San Francisco in Northern California, issued a ban on public gatherings greater than 1,000 people over the next three weeks. The NHL’s San Jose Sharks have three home games in that timeframe and may have to play those games without fans in attendance.
In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday was pushing for a similar edict for his state, which could impact the first round of the NCAA Tournament and, in relation to the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Of the major sports, would basketball be the most impacted by spectator-less games? The fans are in closest proximity to the game and players often feed off the energy of the crowd. With playoff races and positioning in play over these last few weeks of the season, would it have an impact on the end result to not have a true home court advantage?
Did the Lakers just make a statement about their NBA championship potential? After beating Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks last Friday, LeBron and Co. won the third Battle of LA on Sunday afternoon.
It was the first time the Lakers have beaten the Clippers in three tries this season, but that didn’t stop the sudden wave of opinion that the rest of the league had been put on notice.
“It was very important [to get that win],” Lakers center JaVale McGee said after the win over the Clippers. “Just to quiet the doubters. The Lake Show is the best team in the world right now.”
They’re playing like it. And after the Bucks lost their third straight game to drop to 53-12, the Lakers (49-13) found themselves just one game back in the loss column for the best record in the league.
The Clippers (43-20) may not catch the Lakers for the top seed in the West, but does it really matter? Even if they did win the West to gain home court advantage, what kind of home court advantage would they have playing the Lakers at Staples Center in the West Finals?
As long as the Clippers stay in the second or third seed, that will keep them from facing each other until the conference final round, which is exactly what we’re all hoping to see.
Kyle Kuzma agreed.
“That’s how the league is going to make money,” he said.
Name me another more anticipated playoff matchup this season.
As playoff races are underway and we see how LeBron James is back in the postseason after a one-year hiatus — and potential to get back to the Finals — for some morbid reason, I was curious to see the other side of the coin: the guy who is still waiting to make his first playoff appearance.
No one spent more time in the NBA without playing in a single playoff game than Tom Van Arsdale, who played 12 seasons and 929 games and never once appeared in a playoff game.
Jamal Crawford waited 10 years to make his NBA playoff debut, but finally got there with the Atlanta Hawks in 2010 and wound up appearing in 74 playoff games over the rest of his career.
So who right now is playing that agonizing waiting game?
It was Omri Casspi, who went 10 seasons without a playoff appearance. He came close in 2017-18, however, when he played for the Golden State Warriors but was waived in April, just before their championship run. Ouch.
Casspi played for the Memphis Grizzlies last season and decided to play for his hometown team Maccabi Tel Aviv this season.
So next on the list of those waiting the longest for a playoff appearance is Alex Len, a former lottery pick who is now on his third team in seven seasons. He’s gone 461 games (and counting) without a playoff appearance after stops in Phoenix, Atlanta and now Sacramento.
Brandon Knight, who is now back in Detroit (his original team), has actually gone longer years (8) without a playoff appearance, but he has played less games because he’s endured an injury-riddled career. Knight has played in Detroit, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Houston (briefly) and Cleveland.
One streak that will end this year is Ben McLemore, a former lottery pick who has had a long-awaited arrival as an NBA player this season in Houston. McLemore endured seasons with Sacramento and Memphis before he landed with the playoff-bound Rockets this season as a scorer off the bench.
Seven years, at 430 games and counting, is a long wait.