Amid increasing concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus, the NBA asked teams on Friday to begin developing processes and identifying actions required if they have to play games without fans in attendance, limiting attendees to only what is deemed "essential staff," according to a memo obtained by ESPN.
The memo said that members of the media and other typical attendees, in addition to fans, also could be absent from the arenas during games.
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James scoffed at the idea of playing games without fans in attendance.
"Nah, that's impossible," James said after the Lakers' 113-103 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. "I ain't playing. If I ain't got the fans in the crowd, that's what I play for. I play for my teammates, I play for the fans. That's what it's all about. If I show up to an arena, and there ain't no fans there? I ain't playing. So, they could do what they want to do."
Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker said he hoped it didn't come to that point.
"That would be terrible," he said. "That would be boring. They might as well cancel the whole game before that. That would suck. But at the end of the day, it is getting serious. I don't know. It would be very weird though for sure."
Teams have been asked to identify the team and arena staff essential to conduct such a game and to develop processes for "communicating quickly and effectively with team and arena staff who are/aren't essential for this purpose."
The memo said teams should also prepare for the possibility of implementing temperature checks on players, team staff, referees and anyone else essential to conducting a game.
The Golden State Warriors confirmed that Saturday night's game against the Philadelphia 76ers will be played as scheduled after the San Francisco Department of Public Health advised for the cancellation or postponement of "large gatherings, such as concerts, sporting events, conventions or large community events." That city had its first two patients test positive for the coronavirus on Thursday.
The Warriors said they have been coordinating with the NBA and local officials.
As of Friday, the COVID-19 virus has infected more than 95,000 around the world, with more than 3,200 deaths reported. Fifteen of those deaths have been in the U.S.
In a previous memo sent to teams earlier this week, the NBA recommended players utilize fist-bumps over high-fives with fans and avoid taking items such as pens, balls and jerseys when giving autographs.
ESPN's Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.