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Royal Reading: NBA making plans to start next season without fans

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The last time fans were allowed into NBA arenas was on March 11, the day the league decided to shut down due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Now, more than seven months later, it looks like arenas will continue to be empty at the start of next season.

Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting that the NBA sent a memo to all 30 teams to prepare to be without fans and thus arena-generated revenue to start the season. After being criticized for the viewing experience on television during the games in the Orlando bubble, the league is trying to improve the product.

The lighting and lack of crowd noise during games made them feel like scrimmages at times. Unlike normal years, the playoffs felt like they lacked intensity when watching from home. That was just one of the factors into why TV ratings were the lowest in history. The numbers for this year’s NBA Finals matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat were down 51% from the 2019 series between the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors.

Some of the reasons include the fact that many viewers stream the games (legally or illegally), something the ratings don’t account for. Some fans have said the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the players being encouraged to use their voice on specific political issues has turned them off the league.

Another factor is that all four of the major North American sports leagues were active at the same time. All four leagues have seen a dip in their TV ratings during the pandemic, which coincides with the fact that there was a 9% drop in overall TV viewership compared to the same time last year, per Bloomberg News.

It’s doubtful the NBA will have all 30 teams in a bubble. The league can’t expect the players to stay locked away from their families for an extended period, so the NBA can follow a similar model as the NFL and Major League Baseball and allow teams to travel.

If arenas will be empty again in 2021, the league should make adjustments to the viewing experience. Having each team playing in its home building will make things more natural and not like the games are being played at a local YMCA with some fancy technology surrounding the court.

The NFL and MLB have allowed a limited number of fans into their stadiums, something the NBA is discussing. California Gov. Gavin Newsom gave the OK for fans to attend San Francisco 49ers home games, but Santa Clara County nixed the idea. The Sacramento Kings might be able to have 20% capacity for games, but that is something local health officials will have to decide.

What did you think of the TV viewing experience while watching the games in Orlando?

On to some links:

The biggest decision facing new Kings general manager Monte McNair is what to do with restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovic. NBC California’s James Ham does a deep dive on what an extension for Bogi can look like.

Who are some of the big names that will be available in free agency this offseason? Kurt Helin of NBC Sports has Bogdanovic No. 10 on his list.

Sacramento forward Harrison Barnes has been particularly active in the community over the past few months. Jason Jones of The Athletic highlights some of Barnes’ work in his latest piece.

Buddy Hield’s future with the Kings remains up in the air. While he waits, the sharpshooter’s high school honored him by retiring his basketball jersey. (Varsity Kansas)