The night the NBA season was suspended back on March 11, we were all wondering about the possibility of the league playing games without fans.
The last player the Sixers media got to speak with was Glenn Robinson III. As he sat at the podium six feet away from us, he pondered what it might be like to play a game with no fans and what might be done to account for a quiet gym.
"I think how they play music when we're on defense, and offense they kind of play the instrumental in the background — maybe they turn that up a little bit," Robinson said. "Maybe they got the fake fans that cheer in the background, so maybe we can do that. That'd be interesting for us to do, is act like there's more fans here."
A reporter mentioned that fake fan noise wasn't a bad idea.
"I'll take that credit," Robinson joked.
Almost three months later, not only do empty stands appear to be a reality, but games at a neutral site in Walt Disney World are part of the return-to-play format approved by players and owners.
While it’s unknown whether the NBA heard Robinson’s idea, that is reportedly a notion the league is considering, with fake crowd noise provided by the folks at NBA 2K.
For the Sixers, the situation will be especially difficult to grasp. They were on pace to have the widest gap between their home and road record in NBA history.
The happiest place on Earth for the Sixers was the Wells Fargo Center, where they boasted a preposterous 29-2 record. On the road, they had as many wins as the rudderless Knicks with an abysmal 10-24 mark. To make matters worse, the Sixers finished 0-4 in the state of Florida this season with two losses each in Miami and Orlando.
It's hard to know if having no true home-court advantage will hurt the Sixers or their opponents more.
The stakes will be much higher than the previous four games in the Sunshine State, or any game before the season was suspended, for that matter. The Sixers will have two or three “preseason” games and just eight regular-season games — which they absolutely need — before the playoffs begin.
Brett Brown has always referred to the last third of the season as a sprint. This time line is even more accelerated. Perhaps that’ll force his players to have a heightened focus and put their road woes behind them.
“Of course, [playing with no fans is] going to have some level of an impact,” Brown said to reporters on May 15. “I do feel just the mere fact that we'll be playing again might be able to sort of minimize whatever awkwardness playing in front of zero fans is going to teach all of us.”
For those of us at home, the lack of crowd noise, however unfortunate, could add an interesting dynamic. If Joel Embiid is telling an opposing center that they can’t bleeping guard him, we may hear it. When Tobias Harris gets hacked on his way to the lane with no whistle, we may hear the earful he gives the official. When Ben Simmons throws down a rim-rocking dunk, we may hear him bellowing.
It’s uncharted territory for every person involved.
“I think it will be almost comical,” Brown said, “like the communication with referees and the back and forth with players and the rest. I mean, think about that, so much of it really is drowned in 20,000 people — there won't be at all. And so how it will play out, I don't know. None of us have ever done this.”
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