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SB Nation Reacts: How will the lack of fans and the coronavirus affect the NBA this season?

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The network’s latest survey hits on the subject that is most important in our society right now: COVID-19.

Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets
Russell Westbrook is one of two current Washington Wizards players who are known to have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The 2020-21 NBA season is underway. The Los Angeles Lakers are back to their winning ways while the Washington Wizards are in the middle of a poor 2-5 start that has lowered fan confidence in the team.

The national questions for this week’s survey hit major topics that affect us all: the coronavirus pandemic. If you have received the survey invitation in your email, you have until 1 p.m. ET today to respond.

There were three questions asked besides how confident one is in the Wizards. These questions were:

  • Has a lack of home-team fans in attendance eliminated home-court advantage this season?
  • Is the NBA’s contact tracing process fair?
  • Will the Covid-19 contact tracing protocols play a major role in the NBA this season?

My answers to the questions would be these.

Regarding home court advantage, I believe it has been eliminated because of a lack of fans in most arenas. Players feed off the in-person crowds and fake crowd noise just doesn’t cut it. I guess the familiarity of an arena can give some advantage, but the environment of a mostly empty arena will make things strange for everyone involved.

Regarding the contact tracing process, the NBA has a policy where players and key staff members like coaches have to wear sensors during team travel that can track when they go near someone who may have been exposed to the coronavirus, provided that person is also wearing a sensor. It can seem like overreach, but so far, the NBA hasn’t had major outbreaks just yet. And there are some smaller rule changes. For example, players must wear face masks unless they are playing, and they have to disclose the names of thenmedical doctors and therapists they work with outside the team. I think these are necessary things considering that teams are playing in home markets this season.

Finally, will contact tracing play a major role this season? I believe so. After all, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant is facing a seven-day quarantine due to a recent coronavirus exposure — and he already had the coronavirus last spring.

Given that teams are traveling and that the NBA season is being played during the worst months of the pandemic, I believe that multiple teams will have an outbreak in the weeks ahead unfortunately.

The Washington Wizards haven’t been negatively affected by the coronavirus just yet. So far, Russell Westbrook and Thomas Bryant are the only known players to have had COVID-19 in the past, which leaves the team in a vulnerable spot if they have a major outbreak in the weeks ahead. However, given what happened to Durant, if Westbrook and/or Bryant are part of a contact tracing list, they could be subject to quarantine anyway.

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