Prior to the suspension of the NBA season, teams like the Golden State Warriors were set to implement fan-free games in an effort to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus through large public gatherings. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is now predicting that the no-attendance format could be how the league resumes its operations.
In an interview with CNBC, Cuban offered his take on where the league goes from here. He suggested NBA games could begin earlier than once thought but keep fans at home as a safety precaution.
“We have to be very cautious, particularly as we try to come back,” Cuban told the network. “I think at first though we’ll play a lot of games without fans and then figure it out as some of the available medicines … become available, we’ll go from there. People need something to rally around right now. People need sports. We need something to cheer for, something to get excited about and there’s nothing better than our sports teams to do it.”
The billionaire, who recently invested in Live Nation amid its market downturn, also suggested further health precautions if the league were to resume with full attendance. He noted that it could be “feasible” to administer thermometers at arenas and test for fever of all fans upon entrance.
The pandemic’s spread has left a particular impact on the NBA. It was the first pro sports league to suspend its season earlier this month upon learning that Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19 shortly before the team was scheduled to take the court against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Several other players have since contracted the virus, including Gobert’s teammate Donovan Mitchell and Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant.
Commissioner Adam Silver recently opened up about the scenarios currently in discussion for resuming play. He echoed Cuban’s thoughts that games might go on in empty arenas, or the league may wait until deemed safe enough to gather fans for games once more. A third option Silver considered was to televise exhibition games in order to appease fans stuck at home with no sports entertainment.
As of this writing, the league is suspended until at least mid-April.