Could the NBA play games in empty arenas?

  • Two men sit amongst empty seats before a first-round NBA playoff basketball game between the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls Sunday, April 16, 2017, in Boston.

    Two men sit amongst empty seats before a first-round NBA playoff basketball game between the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls Sunday, April 16, 2017, in Boston.

Updated 3/7/2020 6:29 PM

Could NBA games be played in empty arenas due to the coronavirus concerns? The league has reportedly asked teams to consider the possibility and it's happened in other countries.

"It'd be crazy," Zach LaVine said Saturday at the Advocate Center. "One of my best friends actually plays in Italy and Italy is getting hit by it pretty bad. I think they're thinking about canceling their whole season.


"He was the first one who told me they were playing games without fans in the arena. I think it would take a little bit of competitiveness out because obviously I think the fans and atmosphere make a big thing about the game. We've got to do our job at the end of the day, so I think we'll be OK."

LaVine is a native of Seattle, and Washington state has been hardest hit by the virus within the United States.

"We're closest to Asia, man," LaVine said with a laugh. "It's a quicker trip than everywhere else. Just fly on the back side of the world. Actually, where my parents live at in Snohomish there are a couple cases, but it's still like the elderly.

"I know it's like flu symptoms but it's really attacking the older people with respiratory problems and things like that. I just hope everybody out there stays safe and we'll get through it."

The NHL's New York Islanders announced plans to close the locker room to reporters after games. Some believe that policy could spread to the NBA.

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There is concern in both leagues that a confirmed case of the disease would require players to be quarantined. But playing in empty arenas would be an extreme change.

"First of all, I understand what's going on and the league has done I think a great job of staying on top of it," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. "I'd be heartbroken for the fans and I'd be heartbroken for the players. If it has to happen, it's what's best for everybody. But I think that would be a tough moment."

Nets fire coach:

The Brooklyn Nets shocked the NBA world on Saturday by firing coach Kenny Atkinson. Assistant Jacque Vaughn, the former NBA point guard, will serve as interim coach when the Nets host the Bulls on Sunday afternoon.

The move was a surprise because Atkinson seemed to get the most out the Nets while they struggled with a lack of first-round draft picks, thanks to an unfortunate trade with Boston several years ago. Brooklyn made the playoffs last season and is in position to be the No. 7 or 8 seed in the East this year.


Then again, the Nets should look much different next season when Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant recover from injuries.

"Well, I'm disappointed. Kenny's done a heck of a job in a tough situation, missing basically two of his guys all year and I think he's a really good coach and a really good guy," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. "So I'm disappointed that he's not going to be coaching them in the playoffs."

Bulls assistant Chris Fleming spent the past few seasons working for Atkinson in Brooklyn. The two were college teammates at Richmond.

LaVine fills glass:

Bulls top scorer Zach LaVine was asked if he'll be able to build enthusiasm for the Bulls' final 19 games after the season has been such a disappointment.

"I'm upset I got hurt because everybody is coming back," he said. "Obviously, the basketball gods aren't with us. I don't know why. I'm excited. I'm a glass half full-type dude. Stay optimistic and compete. You have to make sure you have fun and enjoy these last games and try to get better."


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