Throughout the entirety of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James has been consistent with his stance on having fans in attendance. He has said since the first day in the Walt Disney World bubble that things are simply not the same without the Laker faithful in attendance, but knows that safety comes first.
There have not been fans at a Lakers home game since March 10 of last year, when L.A. lost at the buzzer to the Brooklyn Nets. Due to the pandemic’s spread through L.A. and Orange County, it’s likely that the Lakers will be one of the last teams to allow fans back during this current season.
James, after the Lakers’ third consecutive win on the road, spoke about how much he misses the fans. He also preached safety while admitting that it’s just not the same with little to no attendance.
“To be able to come into the arena and just see a sprinkle or dab of fans here in the lower bowl or mid bowl, seeing a few of them off the side, it’s a beautiful feeling and I hope we can continue to build that and get back at some point where we’re packing the stadiums again,” James said of limited attendance numbers in some road arenas.
“Obviously health comes first, continue to follow the protocols, continue to be safe with everyone’s family and things of that nature, but sport is not sport without fans and the yelling, the screaming, support and all those things that go with it. Very hopeful of that someday again.”
From what James is saying, we can assume that the second it is safe for fans to congregate back at Staples Center, he will be fiercely advocating for it. It is extremely unlikely that will happen prior to the All-Star break, meaning the middle of March will be the first time the subject is even revisited.
The Lakers getting fans back before the playoffs begin in May could be a game changer for James, who clearly feeds off of the energy of the crowd when he plays.
Frank Vogel trusting NBA health and safety protocols
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has also discussed the impact of playing in an empty arena, but of course he faces more of a challenge with respect to players available amid the pandemic. However, Vogel is trusting the protocols that — while sidelining Alex Caruso for at least four games — are keeping players safe as they travel during a pandemic.
“If we’re not following the protocols and a staff member is in close contact with someone, they’re going to be subject to a potential close contact quarantine,” Vogel said. “That’s at work. That’s why we feel it’s safe to go through an NBA season the way we’re doing it.”
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