Coming into the 2020−2021 season, the majority of NBA teams faced the prospect of playing more games without any fans in the stands. But now, three months into this compressed season, teams are gradually letting fans back into their venues, with the hope of maybe achieving full capacity attendance sometime in the near future.
There is reason to be optimistic, as Sports Travel Magazine reports that 17 other teams will be allowing fans at home games by the end of March. It is a marked improvement from the original 3 teams — the Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies, and Utah Jazz — that have been letting a limited number of fans attend home games since December.
Most notably, the Brooklyn Nets have welcomed their fans back — just in time for them to witness the team reaching their potential. The Nets’ trade for James Harden in January gave Brooklyn arguably the league’s best Big 3, and has transformed the franchise into a legitimate championship contender. In fact, the Nets have now been installed as the favorites to win the NBA title by Bwin, slightly ahead of the defending champions, the Los Angeles Lakers. Indeed, Nets fans have reason to be excited, more so with the team adding former All-Star Blake Griffin. But for now, Barclay’s Center will be operating at 10% capacity, which means approximately 1,773 can watch the high-powered Nets live and in-person.
Another contender, the Philadelphia 76ers, are also welcoming their fans back to the Wells Fargo Center, whose seating capacity is 20,155. The fans’ return is a big boost for Philly, who will be playing without superstar big man and MVP candidate Joel Embiid for the next 2−3 weeks due to a bruised bone in his left knee. All-Star Ben Simmons, though, looks ready to fill the void, and keep the 76ers on top of the Eastern Conference. That said, Simmons and the team can expect around 3,100 fans per home game, as the Well Fargo Center will operate at just 15% capacity. Even so, having fans in the stands ought to help the 76ers stay the course even without their main man.
A curious case is that of the Toronto Raptors, champions of the 2018−2019 season. The team had to relocate their home games to Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay, Florida due to cross-border travel restrictions. As early as late December, the Raptors had been playing with up to 3,800 fans in attendance per home game. However, the ongoing health situation in Florida forced the Raptors to play without fans for much of February and throughout the first two weeks of March. That said, fans are now allowed in Amalie Arena, but at a limited capacity of only 3,500 per home game.
Other teams that already have fans at their home games or will welcome them back by the end of March include the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, and San Antonio Spurs. Curiously, the Lakers are still not allowing fans to watch games live at the Staples Center, citing the health and safety guidelines being implemented by state and local authorities. Their in-state rivals and fellow title contender, the Los Angeles Clippers, haven’t welcome fans back either, in line with the aforementioned guidelines.
All in all, 20 NBA franchises will have fans in the stands at the end of March. And it isn’t inconceivable that the 10 other teams will follow suit soon. A postseason full of fans might even be in play. It is a good sign for the NBA, and certainly a welcome development for the league’s loyal fans.