The NBA is operating under many different circumstances these days. The global pandemic has forced everybody to go through life in a restricted way until we can all get back to normal life and that causes a lot of differences to adjust to.
One of those differences is that the league has to play in empty arenas for the time being as state restrictions put a ban on any large gatherings.
For the Philadelphia 76ers, that can be a bit tough due to the fact that they played so well at Wells Fargo Center in the 2019-20 season sporting a 29-2 record at home before finishing up the season in the bubble. In Tuesday’s preseason win over the Boston Celtics, they were back in Philadelphia, but there were no fans to give them that energy and boost when needed.
The game operations staff did its best to make it as normal as possible piping in crowd noise and playing the “defense” chant when the time called for it. They even added the traditional “sucks” chant from the crowd whenever an opposing player got introduced pregame, but it still is not the same.
“I would still take our fans over what we heard, but I thought game ops did a terrific job, overall,” said coach Doc Rivers. “I thought whoever was running game ops did a great job about this and when we needed defense and had a crowd noise. You felt like you were at home better than you did when you’re in a bubble, let me put it like that. I felt like this is a home game for us and that was nice. I thought having the band and cheerleading and stuff was a good touch.”
In a situation such as this one, it is more important than ever that the players on the bench step up and provide the energy. Make some noise when a big play happens, support each other through this tough situation, and also take it upon each other to be the home crowd.
“I know when I was on the bench cheering for my teammates it felt great,” said rookie Tyrese Maxey. “It felt like we were the crowd. I don’t know what it’s like to play an NBA game with fans, so today it felt normal. It didn’t feel weird or awkward because there were no fans. I feel like the bench was really engaged, standing up, cheering on whoever was in the game. Whether it was me in the game or me on the bench. I think it was cool.”
It was a good start in terms of producing the energy the ream needed, but it is just a start. The Sixers will need more of this out of their guys until the fans can eventually return to the arenas and it can be a raucous environment again.
“I think guys are very supportive, they’re trying to help each other,” Rivers added. “We have some rooks that are extremely humble and want to listen. That actually pulls a team together strange as that sounds, because you know they want to be in as well. Joel and Ben, all the guys are engaged, but we got to keep it that way. We just can’t do it early on it and when you hit a bump, it goes away so it was good to see. I love the spirit.”
Philadelphia will head out on the road on Friday to face the Indiana Pacers to end preseason before returning home on Dec. 23 for the opener against the Washington Wizards.