Certainly playing basketball in a gym without spectators is something most people have done many times. You grow up playing that way.
But for NBA players, doing their work with no fans in the stands is a different deal. No cheering, no booing, no energy.
So how did that feel for the Trail Blazers during Thursday’s scrimmage vs. the Indiana Pacers? Different, but it doesn’t take long for NBA players to get so deep into the game that the atmosphere is out of sight and out of mind.
“Obviously, a huge difference,” Damian Lillard said. “Warming up, empty arena, it was pretty quiet. It was different for that reason. When the game started, I just got lost into the game. Didn't think much of it.”
What was noticeable on television was the backgrounds behind the baskets, which were done in the color (yellow) of Indiana, the designated home team. That appeared as if it might be distracting.
“A few times, it was light in the background and it looked weird seeing it through the glass,” Lillard said.
He said officials asked for his input about the setup.
“When they asked me about it, I mentioned it to them. Pretty sure it won’t be that way going forward.”
Zach Collins asked out of any discussion about the shooting background.
“I didn’t shoot anything outside the paint in that game so maybe I will give you a better answer when I do get some looks,” Collins said with a laugh.
Collins, like Lillard, pointed out the difference in an arena with no spectators.
“The whole atmosphere was kind of weird for sure,” he said. “No fans. Even when they tried to put fans on the screen when Indiana scored, they would be throwing highlights up there and usually that’s on a Jumbotron. So when you’re running down the court, you don’t see that.
"But now, you can be worried about your play and out of the corner of your eye you see something going on, on the screen. I don’t know if they’ll change that, I know they’re using these games as a learning process but it was definitely a little funky.”
Again, though, pros have the ability to tune out the static.
“You’re worried about so much in the game, guys are so talented in the league, whether it’s a scrimmage or not, you kind of get lost in the game,” Collins said.
Coach Terry Stotts had the sideline view and liked what he saw.
“I was impressed with it,” Stotts said. “I think everybody was adjusting to the lighting. Just the actual light, before the game. I heard some players talk about that.
"All the ambience they had in, I think it’s going to be different for regular-season games, once they start.
"But more than anything else, it’s very unique. It just takes a little while to get used to, but I think the league has at least made it seem like an exciting environment, even though you’re playing in an empty gym."
And even as a TV viewer, it's much the way the players see it after a while. You get into the game and the peripheral stuff is largely forgotten.