Nets, Warriors to play first pro empty-arena game in US as result of coronavirus

SAN FRANCISCO — The coronavirus pandemic will force the Nets and Warriors to play behind closed doors Thursday at Chase Center. It will be the first empty-arena game in U.S. pro sports as a result of the virus.

“Due to escalating concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, and in consultation with the City and County of San Francisco, (Thursday) night’s game vs. the Nets at Chase Center will be played without fans. Fans with tickets to this game will receive a refund in the amount paid,” the Warriors said in a statement.

With the spread of the coronavirus across over 100 countries labeled a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, the Nets – and the public – miss the days when the biggest health story surrounding this game was Kevin Durant’s Achilles in his return to Golden State.

“For me, it’s unprecedented. It’s a unique situation,” said Brooklyn interim coach Jacque Vaughn. “Everyone is trying to make the best of it, keep things business as usual and listening to the league about any precautions they care to take.”

The San Francisco Health Office issued an order banning gatherings of more than 1,000 people from assembling. As a result the Warriors are tentatively planning to play their home games without fans. But with the NBA owners having a conference call slated for Wednesday afternoon, they, the Nets and everybody else in the league is in limbo.

“I’ve never done it and never been around it. Do you still get pregame music to go along with that? I’m not sure what all gets cut off,” said Vaughn, joking that in arenas that quiet the TV and radio audiences might hear what actually happens on-court.

“Maybe going to add a few more mikes, pick it all up. It’s going to be silent if you had no one in there. Squeaks and – I’ll tell my kids to cover their ears, there’ll be a little profanity out there for sure.”

DeAndre Jordan – who often plays to the crowd with his thunderous dunks – admitted playing in an empty arena will be difficult.

“It’s very serious. But at the same time a lot of us play for the love of the game, but also for the fans,” said DeAndre Jordan. “That would be extremely tough for us to play a scrimmage a practice-site scrimmage.”

On Monday, the NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS said they’d restrict pre- and postgame media access. The NBA closed locker rooms Tuesday, but now things have gone a step further.

While some international games and Division III college tilts have been held without fans, this will be the first of its kind domestically at the professional level because of COVID-19.

But French wing Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot said he’s experienced the empty stadium phenomenon before.

“For me it already happened back in Europe; I don’t know what were the circumstances,” said Luwawu-Cabarrot. “Its weird games. But if they happen, we just need the whole team to stick together.”

New York has more cases of coronavirus than any other state. Meanwhile, the Nets are now just one game into a week-long four-city West Coast trip, all in California, a coronavirus hot zone.

“Obviously New York’s one of the highest cases of the virus in the States right now, and at the end of the day you just try and be as cautious as possible,” said Joe Harris. “The biggest takeaway for me is just how quickly it spreads and how contagious it is, so one person gets it in the NBA it seems like everybody will probably get it.”

After beating the Lakers Tuesday at Staples Center – on the first night of the NBA’s new closed locker room policy – now the Nets will play behind closed doors on Thursday in San Francisco, head back to Los Angeles for the second half of a back-to-back Friday against the Clippers, and wrap the trip up Sunday in Sacramento.

“Overall I think we’ve been cognizant of the direction that we’ve been given as far as washing your hands, being as sanitary as you possibly can in any situation,” said Vaughn.

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