When the NCAA announced it would conduct the NCAA Tournament in empty gyms, with only family members, broadcasters, media, and essential staff present, it seemed to mark a major shift in the response to COVID-19 from major sports leagues and entities. The Warriors had already been ordered by San Francisco officials that Thursday’s game would be played without fans at the Chase Center, but Wednesday’s games elsewhere around the league went forward with fans in attendance.
Those games will likely be the last with fans present, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports the league’s Board of Governors “shared a consensus” on a conference call Wednesday that the season should proceed without fans present, and the league is expected to announce that move officially on Thursday.
New story filed to ESPN:
The NBA’s Board of Governors shared a consensus on Wednesday to continue the season playing games without fans in arenas amid the coronavirus crisis, and Commissioner Adam Silver is expected to move in that direction with a decision on Thursday.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 11, 2020
There were alternative discussions that reportedly also took place, such as suspending operations for a period of time or moving games to different venues in areas that had not had an outbreak, but ultimately it seems they will move forward with the season as planned, just without fans. The goal with this and all events being behind closed doors is to flatten the curve of the virus and prevent a massive spike in cases that can overwhelm the nation’s healthcare infrastructure.
As Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today notes, there will still be discussions on Thursday and it’s a fluid situation where plans can change, particularly should a player contract the virus.
NBA will continue conversations with key people Thursday ahead of decision, I'm told. League is moving toward scenario where games are played in front of essential personnel/no fans, but fluid nature (say a player gets coronavirus) could change that, too.https://t.co/Oc7b98dm0Y
— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) March 11, 2020
It seems that playing games behind closed doors will be the least dramatic next step taken by the league, with the possibility of having to suspend operations for some time not being out of the question.