The NBA is just a week away from meaningful games, but we have been already been getting a glimpse of what basketball in the bubble looks like thanks to some "preseason" scrimmages.
The Blazers took on the Pacers in a losing effort on Thursday, but that's ok, the game didn't really count.
What mattered for the team was just getting on the court, knocking off the rust, and finding a groove before the July 31 matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies.
As for the fans, all eyes were on the TV not only to see how their team looked, but to see how a basketball broadcast looked inside the bubble.
It was certainly different.
There were no fans in the stands, a substantial amount of natural sound, and players on the bench were all seated six feet apart to help stay safe among the COVID-19 outbreak.
The broadcast was like nothing we had ever seen before, and it's only getting to get more innovative.
The NBA announced on Friday that there will be special changes coming to the broadcast as we know it.
This biggest innovation - fans will be in the building... virtually.
While fans won’t be physically present at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, more than 300 NBA fans each game will be invited to appear live on the “Michelob ULTRA Courtside” 17-foot video boards surrounding the court. Those fans will have the opportunity to digitally interact with each other throughout the game using Microsoft’s “Together mode” to create a virtual experience by removing fans from their individual backgrounds and bringing them together in a shared visual space that will be seen through the broadcast and in the venue. This new experience—the first to go live as a result of the NBA’s strategic alliance with Microsoft—gives participating fans the feeling of sitting next to one another at a live game without leaving the comfort and safety of their homes, while players experience their energy and support in-venue - NBA on new broadcast presentation
TV broadcasts of NBA Bubble games will soon incorporate video boards that display up to 300 fans cheering along from home in real time via Microsoft technology. pic.twitter.com/IZxPcDsEyx— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) July 24, 2020
The league also announced that more than 30 cameras would be placed in new locations, including closer to the court, to "showcase never-before-seen camera angles in places that are otherwise not accessible with fans in the arena."
Social media will also play a bigger role than ever in fan interaction.
Through apps such as TikTok, Twitter, and Snapchat, fans can use their social media presence to have a direct influence on the venue.
All viewers will have the ability to impact visual effects in the venue through a virtual cheering experience. Fans can digitally cheer for their team through the NBA App and NBA.com and on Twitter using team hashtags throughout the game. Virtual cheering will be reflected on the video boards in-venue with graphics and animations that capture the level of fan engagement around the world. Fans will also have the opportunity to see their videos featured through TikTok Challenges. Snapchat’s “ground segmentation” augmented reality technology will also give fans an opportunity to explore a virtual rendering of the official court in Orlando via a Lens wherever they are. - NBA on new broadcast presentation
As the league continues to thrive in the bubble, it's obvious that one huge piece to the NBA in-arena experience is missing. Through this new plan, the NBA hopes to bring that missing piece, the fans, right back into the action.
Through upgraded visual and audio production, fans can feel like they are there in Orlando. While through social media, fans can directly impact the feeling inside the arena.
The games may not be inside Moda Center, but fans can still do their best to give the Blazers a home-court advantage.
Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].