Mic'd Up NBA Players & Games Without Fans? What Barea Thinks


DALLAS – Optimism is bubbling around the return of the NBA to finish the 2019-20 season. How? When? What would it look like? Those are legit question the league will have to get creative to smartly answer. One detail is clear: Until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told players to plan for playing games without fans.

“It is not going to be as fun without fans,” Dallas Mavericks vet J.J. Barea said in an exclusive interview with DallasBasketball.com. “Fans mean everything to us and to the game. But for now they will get to watch something on TV. Without fans the game will never be the same.”

The crowd noise will be severely missed. Game atmosphere won’t be the same without rising decibels during crucial free throws, Mavericks fans screaming for a Luka Doncic three-pointer and booing at their rivals.

How big of an impact an empty arena will make on the intensity of the game remains to be seen. The fans/no fans topic has become a polarizing subject around the league. (See Cuban, Shaq and Barkley thoughts on the safety of it all here.) Mavs fan-favorite Barea’s insight shows how much he adores the Dallas fan base while squashing the idea that the competition level will falter.

“The intensity will still be just as good. Players want to win no matter what,” Barea told us.

No fans would be invited, but on the bright side, the opportunity for the TV broadcast to improve the product is immense. Imagine mid-game interviews, new camera angles, inside looks into replay reviews and (my favorite) mic’d up players on the court.

Barea is in favor of players being mic’d up during the game to add to the viewing experience. When asked what the audience may hear from the Mavs, Barea laughed and agreed that it would be highly entertaining.

Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal is vocal about his dislike of the idea of games sans fans.

“It matters because looking at the fans starts your adrenaline,” O’Neal said. “Let’s just say I’m playing on the road. I need to look at that one fan that’s making faces at me. I need to look at that one fan that laughs at me when I miss a free throw. I need to look at that one fan that’s holding up the opposing sign …They make us who we are.”

Others are more confident that players will be able to adapt.

Said Vince Carter on The Grant Napear Show: “When you toss that ball up and competition starts, and you’re in battle, how often do you worry about the fans? Yes, you hear them cheering, and booing you, I get that. But you’re in competition, you’re in battle. You should be focused on the guy in front of you, or the task at hand.”

Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens made a great point about the intense competitiveness at practice.

“I guess playing without fans would be much more like a typical practice environment and I think that the one thing about these guys is they don’t compete any less hard in practice,” Stevens said to reporters last week. “In fact, sometimes in those quiet gyms where you can hear everything somebody else is saying, it gets even more feisty. And so, I think that it would be great basketball if we’re able to do that.”

The return of the NBA is gaining momentum behind Silver’s insight that the safest course of action is for the season to play out in one or two locations, likely Orlando or Las Vegas. Silver - believing the NBA is facing an all-time challenge - is in no rush and says the decision may go into June.

The 2019-20 NBA season continues to be on hold. If it resumes, the product will be altered … but maybe … different will, as Barea told us, find a way to be good enough.