The Golden State Warriors do not even have a schedule for next season yet, but the team already announced plans to let fans into their arena at 50% capacity.
LeBron and the LeBronettes are still basking in the glow of their 2020 NBA Championship, which the Los Angeles Lakers won just a month ago yesterday. Yet already in these truncated times, we are talking about the next NBA season — which you may have missed it, but this week the NBA approved a new shortened 2020-21 season set to begin in a mere six weeks on December 22. No actual games have been announced, merely a start date. And the Lakers, in accordance with the times, announced they will not allow fans at games “until further notice.”
Your Golden State Warriors have other ideas. CBS Sports reports that the Warriors want to open Chase Center at 50% capacity, which is more than 9,000 fans, though promising to rapid-test every single fan. This despite current SF guidance allowing gatherings of no larger than 200, and for a two-hour maximum, a short window in which an NBA game could not be completed.
Update: The Golden State Warriors Communications department clarifies in a statement to SFist that "We will continue to work with local and State officials and hope to activate this plan when the timing is right." In other words, they are not planning to admit 9,000 fans when the NBA season begins on December 22.
"I not only want to get this done and show the world how we can do it now, I'm willing to spend the money to do it," Warriors owner Joe Lacob told ESPN. "This is a serious, serious problem. It cannot go on for multiple years ... because if this were to go on for several years, the NBA is no more.”
The Chronicle calls the plan “groundbreaking.” We will use different adjectives, but in fairness to the Warriors, we’ll explain their plan in good faith before calling out its complete implausibility.
First, the team will test every single fan before they enter the arena, using the highest-tech method available called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. It’s the same test the NBA used in their very successful ‘bubble’ experiment this summer. ESPN says PCR tests are “close to 99% accurate in detecting the coronavirus,” but that’s only counting false positives. False negatives are clearly the more dangerous variable, and the Harvard Medical School says that for PCR tests, the “reported rate of false negatives is as low as 2% and as high as 37%.”
Yes there would be masks and social distancing involved, and presumably no concessions. But we don’t know that for sure, because the Warriors have not made their plan public. “We recently submitted that plan to the city and state for review,” the team said in a statement to the Chronicle.
Notice that none of these quotes are from people like Dr. Grant Colfax or Mayor London Breed, who are among the people who would have to sign off. And it feels like years ago, but when there was last Warriors basketball in March, the mayor's and the DPH directives were being openly disregarded by the Warriors, as Mission Local reported at the time. I imagine Breed and Colfax might still remember this.
We have heard from Sup. Matt Haney, in whose district Chase Arena sits. “I would have to see the plans before committing to be supportive of any arena reopening timeline,” Haney told the Chronicle. “I think at a time when we are seeing a spike in cases and rolling back indoor dining, reopening large arenas in the near term feels obviously premature.”
The NBA just pulled off an absolutely flawless iteration of the Orlando bubble, with not a single COVID-19 case through the whole affair. Why they are not doing the same for at the least early part of the season seems illogical. That the Warriors are planning for 9,000 fans in the arena during clearly the worst phase of this virus seems galactically out to lunch.
Las Vegas odds say that the Lakers are the favorites to win another title, but the Warriors have strong odds to contend for a title as well. Personally, I’d be more willing to lay odds on what day the NBA will experience a COVID-19 outbreak and shut their season down again.
Note: This post has been updated with a statement from the Warriors' Communications department on working with state and local officials on a reopening timeline.
Image: willowcharter via Wikimedia Commons