LeBron James raised his eyebrows about the subject. Because of concerns about the novel coronavirus continuing to spread around the world, the NBA sent a memo on Friday to all 30 teams about the need to prepare for possibly playing games behind closed doors.
"We play games without the fans?" James said incredulously following the Los Angeles Lakers’ win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday at Staples Center. "Nah, it’s impossible."
It actually is possible. There are no imminent plans to postpone or have any closed-door Lakers and Clippers games at Staples Center, including a cross-town matchup on Sunday. Staples Center officials set up varying sanitizer stations throughout the arena during recent games this week. But multiple NBA team executives also told USA TODAY Sports they have considered playing behind closed doors as a last-resort contingency plan. The NBA also reminded teams that any decision to postpone or cancel games needs to come from the league office.
"I ain’t playing," James said of any potential NBA game without fans. "I ain’t got the fans in the crowd. That’s who I play for. I play for my teammates. I play for the fans. That’s what it’s all about. If I show up to an arena and there are no fans in there, I ain’t playing. They can do what they want to do."
Should the NBA host any games behind closed doors or cancel them, they lose revenue from potentially refunded tickets and concession sales. If the NBA postpones games, it would also face a logistical hurdle to reschedule them. The NBA playoffs start on April 18, and it already has experienced challenges with rescheduling the Lakers-Clippers game that was postponed on Jan. 26, two days after the death of Kobe Bryant.
The NBA rescheduled that Lakers-Clippers game for April 9, resulting in the Lakers playing three consecutive homes games. The NBA had to shuffle three other games on its master schedule involving the Lakers and Clippers.
Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors released a statement that their nationally televised game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Chase Center on Saturday "will continue as scheduled." Though the Warriors advised fans who are feeling sick not to attend, they outlined additional safety measures. They have increased hand sanitizers around the arena and soap on the restrooms. Arena workers also plan to clean surfaces, doors, door handles and elevators before and after games.
"It’s a nice privilege to be able to play basketball. But I would like to be able to live many, many years past this," Lakers guard Alex Caruso said. "If it is a legit thing that needs to be done, do whatever you have to do. People watch on TV way more anyway."