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LeBron James Changes Tune On Playing Without Fans Because Of Coronavirus

When James said Friday that he wouldn't play in a game without fans, he wasn't aware that the NBA was actually discussing that possibility

When LeBron James said Friday that he wouldn't play in a game without fans, he wasn't aware that the NBA was discussing that possibility because of the coronavirus health scare. 

James backed off of that stance Tuesday.

"Well, it’s funny because when I was asked the question of would you play without no fans, I had no idea that there was an actually a conversation going behind closed doors about the particular virus," James said at Lakers' shootaround Tuesday ahead of playing Brooklyn at Staples Center. 

"Obviously I would be very disappointed not having the fans because that is what I play for. I play for my family, I play for my fans. They say no one could actually come to the game if they decide to go to that point, so I would be disappointed in that. But at the same time, you got to listen to the people that’s keeping track on what’s going on. If they feel like it’s best for the safety of the players, the safety of the franchise, the safety of the league to mandate that, then we all listen to it."

It was a different position than James took four days ago. After Friday's 113-103 win over Milwaukee, James was asked about the NBA potentially banning fans from games because of the virus and James said, “If I show up to an arena and there are no fans in there, I ain’t playing.”

Reporters stood behind ropes as they interviewed James on Tuesday at the team's practice facility in El Segundo. 

The NBA decided to limit locker room access to only players and essential personnel on Monday because of the virus. Teams were also instructed to keep a six-to-eight foot distance between players and reporters outside of the locker room, as ESPN first reported.

"I miss you guys being right here," James said, waiving his arms in front of him. "Like right here in my bubble." 

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James was jokingly asked if he felt safer six feet away from reporters.

"So much safer," James said, smiling. "You guys are such a threat every time I come out." 

The Lakers had a town-hall discussion with their team doctor on Monday. They also met with their team doctor Saturday to discuss preventative measures with the virus, such as washing hands and avoiding contact with other people. 

"It is a difficult situation," Lakers' coach Frank Vogel said. "But we're gonna follow the direction of the league and try to have a common-sense mindset with all of this and try to do what's best."

Vogel said he's been as vigilant as possible.

"Just wiping things down in the house, in my office, washing my hands relentlessly and I've replaced the handshake with the dab," Vogel said. "I just dab people now instead of shaking people's hands. It's a little cooler, and I think it's gonna be trending in a little bit."

Vogel said he hopes the virus doesn't progress to the point where fans aren't allowed at games. But he added that teams will respect whatever they are advised.

"It would be very unfortunate for our game, but again, just make the most of a difficult situation and do the right thing," Vogel said. "If that's the right thing to do because there's a need for containment, then we understand. We get it and we'll make the best of it."