Lakers’ LeBron James Won’t Play Without Fans As NBA – And NCAA – Mull Coronavirus Contingency Plans

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UPDATED with NCAA report:

The NCAA’s worst-case scenario for staging its March Madness tournaments in the time of coronavirus would be barring spectators from games, with players screened for illness before competing, the association’s chief medical officer Brian Hainline told The Wall Street Journal Saturday.

The popular college basketball tournaments begin in less than two weeks.

“I think a worst-case scenario is that it’s played behind closed doors,” Hainline said Friday. “It would be very, very difficult to cancel a championship and have it at any other time.”

Last week, the NCAA created an advisory committee of medical professionals and member schools to monitor the situation and develop contingency plans.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said he’d never play to an empty arena after reports the NBA has instructed teams to prepare for just that.

“You mean play games without the fans? No. It’s impossible. I ain’t playing. Not without the fans in the crowd,” James told reporters last night after the Lakers beat the Milwaukee Bucks. “That’s who I play for. … If I show up to an arena, and there ain’t no fans there, I ain’t playing. So they can do what they want to do,” he said.

The NBA’s regular season ends April 15.

On Friday, several outlets reported that the NBA had sent a memo to franchises saying teams should be preparing contingency plans to play without fans and identifying essential staff for these games should it be necessary. The NBA reportedly wants teams to prepare for checking the temperatures of players, staff members, referees and anyone else deemed essential.

Last week Los Angeles County and California declared a state of emergency after more coronavirus cases were identified. According to The New York Times, officials across the United States reported a total of 312 cases of coronavirus and 17 deaths, with Florida reporting the first deaths on the East Coast and new cases reported in Florida and Georgia. The numbers don’t count 21 people who tested positive on a cruise ship of California.

The Center for Disease Control website cites 164 cases and 11 deaths nationwide but says its numbers are updated Monday through Friday at noon as of the tally at 4 pm the previous day.

Soccer teams in Italy, one of the nations hardest hit by the virus, have canceled some games and played others in empty stadiums.


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