“It Would Be Very Weird,” Say Sixers on the Possibility of Playing in Empty Arenas

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Sixers media availability was just slightly different today.

Instead of doing scrums off to the side of the practice courts, we went back into the lobby, where the reception desk served as a Coronavirus buffer between players and reporters.

It wasn’t a big deal, essentially the same exact setting with six feet between us and the interview subject, which was a bit of a pain in the ass for camera crews, who adjusted on the fly to make sure they got their video and audio in a setting that looked like this:

As for the Sixers, the group that actually plays basketball, they’re just following precautions, washing their hands, practicing “social distancing” and taking a common sense approach to Covid-19.

“There are people that are educated and are employed to provide whatever information we’re all getting, and far be it from me to question much,” said head coach Brett Brown. “I’m just following the lead of people that are in the know. I concede it is a different course for sure. Personally, I’m so fascinated by the whole thing, but as it relates to our job and what we are able to do or not able to do, it hasn’t reached a stage where I think it’s impeding our ability to prepare or be a coach, yet.”

Brown is right; this is really rather nascent in terms of restrictions being placed on players. Right now we’ve got media barred from entering the locker room and that’s about it.

The real question is whether or not more is coming down the pike. There have been discussions about playing NBA games in empty arenas, which is something already taking place in Europe and other areas of the country.

“It would be, obviously a rough situation and not ideal by any stretch of the imagination,” said Brown of that idea. “But going back to the original point, if people in the know felt like that was what was needed to provide the greatest level of safety, then that’s what we will do. We obviously hope it doesn’t get to that stage.”

“I haven’t really thought about it, but it’s interesting dynamic,” said Josh Richardson, who practiced Tuesday after missing multiple games with a concussion last week. “I think it would be very weird for a lot of guys, because we’re used to playing in front of packed stadiums. I mean I guess it would kind of be like a pick up game at that point. We’d be calling our own fouls (laughs). I think teams would have to bring their own energy. That would be a big advantage or disadvantage for a lot of people. I think there would have to be a lot of internal (motivators) that would have to line up.”

It’s an interesting topic, the idea of playing in an empty arena.

The Sixers are 28-2 at the Wells Fargo Center and hold the NBA’s best record on their home floor. Would removing the tough, but supportive crowd hurt the team’s energy and compete levels? And on the flip side, would barring the crowd during road games help the Sixers improve their miserable 10-24 record?

“It would definitely be weird, but hopefully it wouldn’t get to that point,” Shake Milton added. “Everybody likes playing in front of the fans. I can’t even imagine what that would be like, just like a pick up game. I don’t know how that would go. I didn’t ever think of it like that, but maybe it would be (an advantage or disadvantage on the floor). At the end of the day it’s just basketball, so I think we’ll be alright.”

For now, the Sixers are just being safe and following recommendations from people who know better.

“There has been so much that has gone on from things inside our own organization,” Brown said. “Before playing Golden State, their team doctor came in and explained that this is their venue policy and the procedures and policies that were in place to make us feel more comfortable. They’re aware that there was some anxiety at that stage in San Francisco. There were quite a few cases, the cruise liner getting ready to dock in Oakland, that would transfer some of the passengers, so that was mentioned. But in general, we have had a lot of information given to us.”

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7 Responses

  1. No crowds allowed at SJ Sharks games. 3-4 weeks ago people barely knew what coronavirus was and now sporting events in the USA will be played in empty arenas, if at all. And this is just the beginning…

  2. Brett Brown needs a break from the fans. His team that he snowballed the city on for years and the FACE of it till this day needs quiet in the Wells Fargo. Why is this guy still the face is amazing. Dont let him fool you. Used car salesman at its best.

  3. Anyone who pays money to watch Giants dunk a basketball; already has big problems, besides the virus risk.

  4. Heeyy, thank you for explaining it! For the Sixers, the real basketball team, measures include hand washing, adopting “social distance,” and approaching Covid-19 with common sense.

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