When the NBA returns later this month, only the players and select personnel will fill the arenas. The seats will be empty. At the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, where the NBA is creating a “bubble” for 22 teams to compete, no fans will be allowed in or out. For players used to playing in front of 19,000 raucous fans, the quiet atmosphere could be unsettling.
“Honestly, I don’t know. I never experienced such a thing,” Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic says about playing in an empty arena. “It’s going to be worse for sure. I enjoy very much the fans in the gym as opponents or at home fans, there’s always noise. It’s going to be weird so I don’t know how I’m going to feel.”
Obviously, the NBA isn’t going to reverse course and suddenly allow fans to attend games. The whole reason for what the league is doing is to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to its athletes, coaches, and other team personnel. The NBA shut down on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert contracted the virus. It’s since spread to other players around the association.
It uncertain whether the league’s efforts will be effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19. The hope is that once the teams arrive in Orlando, they will be in a state of quarantine. However, 25 players out of 351 screened tested positive for the virus since testing began June 23.
Although the numbers appear small, less than eight percent of players are testing positive, the pervasive spread of the virus forced the closure of both the Brooklyn Nets’ and Denver Nuggets’ practice facilities in late June with players and personnel contracting coronavirus.
Of 884 team staff tested, only 10 have tested positive. That’s a little more than one percent.
So, for now, players will have to get used to playing in front of empty seats. It’s for their safety, relatively speaking. Fans watching at home will be treated to surreal visuals, multi camera angles, and artificial crowd noise—which, let’s be honest, no one really wants.
As for Doncic, he’s not going to let the sight of empty arenas affect his routine. He’s going to keep doing what he’s always done before and after games.
“Same thing with normal season. Same plan, same thing as I always did,” Doncic says. “It’s going to be really weird without the fans, but same routine. Same as always.”