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Fans lift 2020 NBA spirits

Vivint Smart Home Arena

Only six NBA teams are allowing limited numbers of socially distanced fans into arenas–but in these socially distanced times, they’re providing a lift for everyone involved.

In Salt Lake City, 1,932 fans were in attendance last night for the Utah Jazz’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. And while those fans couldn’t match a full house–18,300 or so–at Vivint Arena, they added enough life to what has been a dull experience in other empty arenas and managed to impose enough safety measures to please all. From KSL:

The Jazz taped off all the non-tickets seats, making sure groups of fans had to stay socially distanced while watching the game. Common spaces, like elevators, restrooms and retails stops, all had reduced capacity. No bags or purses were allowed — with the exception of diaper and medical bags.

But even with the protocols in place, there were some hesitations from some of the fans to enter an arena once again — but ultimately the desire to see the Jazz in person won out….

“I’m not gonna lie, it was a breath of fresh air for all of us,” Mike Conley said. “It sounded like there were a lot more. It was great to have them in the building, it was great to have our families. It was a great atmosphere.”

Cleveland, Houston, New Orleans, Orlando, Utah and Toronto (playing in Tampa) are the six NBA teams allowing a limited number of fans into arenas.

In Tampa, a sellout crowd of 3,800 was on hand for the Toronto Raptors’ debut in their temporary Amalie Arena home. It was an odd situation, to be sure: the Raptors will not be a permanent tenant, and the crowd seemed to be made up more of basketball fans and bored homebound souls than Toronto fans. From the Tampa Bay Times:

“I don’t know if it’s just like fans from, like, every every team, basically,” said forward Pascal Siakam, who led the Raptors with 20 points. “I don’t know if it’s all Raptors fans or whatever the case might be. But I thought it was cool. It’s something that we haven’t seen in a while, and obviously we missed that. We have some people and some type of energy in the crowd. Just to see people, it makes it feel kind of normal.”…

This is Tampa’s first foray into being an NBA town, even if temporarily, and sports fans come to the bay area with their own allegiances. So it’s not surprising that Pelicans star Zion Williamson drew some loud cheers from the crowd on a first-quarter block and an equally eye-opening dunk.

RELATED STORIES: No NBA virtual fans for 2020-2021 season; Teams prep for 2020-2021 NBA season, as preseason scheds releasedBucks to play sans fans at Fiserv Forum to begin seasonRaptors to begin 2020-2021 season in TampaThunder unveil arena COVID-19 mitigation plans

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