Three NBA teams — Atlanta Hawks, Utah Jazz, and Memphis Grizzlies — have announced that they would allow a limited number of fans at games during the 2020-21 season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Last season, teams played in a bubble setting in Orlando, Florida. This season, teams will be traveling from city to city once again.
Earlier in November, the Oklahoma City Thunder announced they would have a limited number of fans at the beginning of its season, but on Monday, the team changed course and decided to not allow fans at games due to rising COVID cases in the state.
"For months, we have worked in close collaboration with Chesapeake Energy Arena, the City of Oklahoma City, local health officials, and the NBA to put into place thorough health and safety measures to allow for reduced seating capacity," the team said in a press release. "However, as we review ongoing and concerning trends in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Oklahoma, we want to exercise an abundance of caution to help control the spread of the virus in our community. Therefore, the Thunder has made the decision to begin the season without fans in the arena."
The Utah Jazz announced that they would allow a limited number of fans at their home games. According to KSTU, Vivint Arena will allow 1,500 fans in the suites and lower bowl. Fans must wear face coverings and social distance while inside the arena.KSTU reported that the arena would reduce capacity in elevators, retail stores, and restrooms.
Another NBA team that's allowing fans this season will be the Atlanta Hawks. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a small number of friends and family will attend the first few home games at State Farm Arena. Approximately 1,500 fans will be able to watch the Hawks game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
And according to the Memphis Grizzlies, the seating capacity at the FedExForum will be at about 20% capacity. The Grizzlies said that everyone inside the arena would need to wear a mask at all times, and everyone will need to social distance. The team also announced that they would install more than 300 hand sanitizing stations would be placed throughout the arena for easy and ample access for guests.
The 2020-21 season is set to tipoff Dec. 22, with teams playing 72 games. And last week, the league announced the structuring and format of how games were to be played during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a press release, the league said that the regular-season would be released in two segments: the first half schedule will be released around the start of training camp, which is reportedly beginning the first week of December. The league will release the second-half portion towards the end of the first half of the season.
Other notable changes occurring this season, per a press release by the league:
- Each team will play three games against each intraconference opponent, with each pairing featuring either two home games and one road game or one home game and two road games. Within each team's division, the league office has randomly assigned which two opponents will be played twice at home and which two opponents will be played twice on the road.
- A play-in tournament will determine the seventh and eighth playoff seeds.
- All five teams from within a division will play all five teams from one other intraconference division twice at home, and all five teams from the remaining intraconference division twice on the road.
- Each team will play two games against each interconference opponent (30 total games per unit), with each pairing featuring one home game and one road game.
The NBA also released this tentative calendar of important dates for the upcoming season:
- Dec. 11-19, 2020: Preseason games
- Dec. 22, 2020 – March 4, 2021: First Half of regular season
- March 5-10, 2021: All-Star break
- March 11 – May 16, 2021: Second Half of regular season
- May 18-21, 2021: Play-In Tournament
- May 22 – July 22, 2021: 2021 NBA Playoffs