With concerns of a COVID-19, or coronavirus, outbreak in the United States escalating, the Golden State Warriors announced on Wednesday that their game against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday will be played without fans. The Warriors are the first team in the NBA that has taken this precaution, but it’s unlikely that they’ll be the last, and the Los Angeles Lakers are mentally preparing themselves for that growing possibility.
Following the Lakers’ 104-102 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, Anthony Davis talked about how difficult it would be for the team to play without the energy that the fans provide them during games (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“There is nothing like the fans. Like you said, we kind of fed off their energy late in the game ... If they weren’t allowed to come to this game, there is no telling what the score would be or how we would play. But if it happens, there is nothing we can do about it. We’ve just got to continue to go out there and play ballgames, and hopefully we’ll get through it.”
Playing games without fans is something that had been done in sports leagues across the world before the threat of the coronavirus, usually as a response to unacceptable behavior from fans. In the U.S., though, games without fans in attendance are unprecedented, and that unfamiliarity is what LeBron James told reporters would be the biggest hurdle for the Lakers to clear:
“None of have ever played a basketball game where no one has been in the stands. Like literally no one has been in the stands, so that will be something that will be very challenging, but we’ll see what happens … with the protocol and everything that goes on with that going forward and just take it from there.”
However, the Lakers are fully aware that the public’s healthy and safety is bigger than basketball, and Danny Green said they’re more than willing to cooperate with whatever they’re instructed to do:
“Just taking certain precautions we need to for our sake and for our families and for the fans if that’s what it comes down to. We’d rather not play that way, but if we need to take the precautions for the safety of everyone else than so be it.”
The Lakers’ are scheduled to play against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on Thursday. As of now, there are no plans for the game to be played in an empty arena, but NBA teams were informed to be prepared for that scenario last week.