DALLAS – Deep in the heart of Texas, American Airlines Center, the home of the Dallas Mavericks, sits empty - vacant of the 20,000 screaming fans in blue. Meanwhile, a thousand miles away, the Mavs team prepares for NBA Playoff push in an unprecedented kind of environment in the Orlando ‘bubble.’
And along with the advanced technology will come, for those same Mavs fans, a televised scrimmage, as the NBA has announced that Thursday's 6 p.m. CT workout between Luka Doncic's Mavs and LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers will be televised.
There will be no live audience for that, or for any of the 2019-20 NBA season comeback at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort. However, the league has gotten very creative in involving fans in new ways to make the broadcast product engaging and the environment electric for the competing teams.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle toured the largest of the venues where games will be played in the NBA ‘bubble’, getting a peek into how it will look when the season restarts on July 30. His initial impression is straightforward, “This is like next-level, unbelievable stuff.”
“We saw the digital boards in their full operation mode,” Carlisle said. “There’s going to be pictures of actual fans on the digital boards. It will look like there are people in the arena.”
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How very futuristic. But how is this possible?
“Those faces in actuality are people sitting in front of their computers at home watching the game being streamed on a computer,” Carlisle said. “Their faces are on a digital board and my understanding is they have the ability to affect the amount of noise made in terms of cheering somehow in their computer.”
Props to the NBA for utilizing COVID-19 as an opportunity to switch up the game atmosphere. Of course, fan noise will be severely missed but the broadcast product could end up being improved.
After three scrimmage games - again, featuring the Lakers to start on NBA TV, the Mavs’ first game that counts is July 31 against the Houston Rockets. Seventh-seeded Dallas, and the 22 other teams, will play eight regular-season games to help finalize playoff seeding before the playoffs begin.