As the NBA’s board of governors prepares to confer with the commissioner’s office Wednesday in a critical conference call on the coronavirus crisis, one of the scenarios introduced into the league’s conversation involves moving some games to NBA cities that have yet to suffer outbreaks, league sources told ESPN.
If the virus clusters and forces a team out of its city and arena for a period of time, there has been discussion about moving games to the away opponent’s arena if that city hasn’t suffered an outbreak — or even moving games to neutral cities and sites, league sources told ESPN.
The NBA is discussing a number of possibilities — including eliminating fans from buildings for games or, more drastically, suspending game operations for a period of time — but sources say decisions on those options remain complicated by the fact that there has been a limited amount of public testing for the coronavirus in the United States. There is no full understanding of how widespread and debilitating the virus could become in the country.
After the board of governors call on Wednesday — which is expected to include one designated ownership representative of each team, sources said — two additional calls are set for Thursday for team presidents and general managers, sources said.
So far, individual NBA teams have been hesitant to become the league’s first to voluntarily eliminate fans from home games, sources said. Even with the conference call set for governors and owners on Wednesday, there has been a tremendous amount of communication among teams, the league and public health experts in recent weeks.
San Francisco health officials have yet to mandate that the Golden State Warriors play games without fans, but those conversations have been ongoing with the franchise. The Warriors are the league’s highest-grossing team on game nights, averaging somewhere between $3.6 million and $3.8 million per game, sources said.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine recommended that indoor teams in that state play without fans for the immediate future. The Cleveland Cavaliers are starting a six-game road trip and don’t return home until March 24, which gives them time to evaluate the recommendation and decide how to proceed.
The NBA already eliminated media from locker rooms, in what the league said will be a temporary measure in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne contributed to this report.