James says won’t play in empty arenas as NBA mulls virus strategy

James says won’t play in empty arenas as NBA mulls virus strategy
LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles around the screen of Danny Green #14 as Wesley Matthews #9 of the Milwaukee Bucks chases during the first half at Staples Center on March 06, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Harry How/Getty Images/AFP)
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Updated 08 March 2020

James says won’t play in empty arenas as NBA mulls virus strategy

James says won’t play in empty arenas as NBA mulls virus strategy
  • The NBA has reportedly told teams to look into strategies on how to play without fans in the arena amid concerns over the spreading virus
  • “I ain’t never played the game without no fans. Ever since I started. This ain’t Europe," says LeBron James

LOS ANGELES: Basketball superstar LeBron James said he won’t play if his Los Angeles Lakers have to hold games behind closed doors due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The NBA has reportedly told teams to look into strategies on how to play without fans in the arena amid concerns over the spreading virus.

“Nah. It’s impossible,” James said after the Lakers’ 113-102 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. “If I show up to the arena and there ain’t no fans in the crowd, then I ain’t playing.”

The league sent a memo to each team on Friday asking them to develop contingency plans to combat the spread of the virus. One of the alternatives is playing games behind closed doors.

“I ain’t never played the game without no fans,” James said. “Ever since I started. This ain’t Europe.

“I play for my teammates and I play for the fans. That’s what it is all about.”

James and Anthony Davis scored all but one of the Lakers’ points in the final quarter Friday as they rallied to beat the NBA-leading Bucks and clinch their first playoff spot since 2013.

As fears grow over the spread of the virus, and sports leagues formulate contingency plans, the NBA’s Friday memo told teams to start “developing” plans on how to play games with only “essential staff” in attendance, American sports broadcaster ESPN reported.

The NBA had sent out a previous memo to teams earlier this week, recommending players to use fist-bumps instead of high-fives with fans. It also said to avoid taking items such as pens, balls and jerseys from fans to sign.

“The health and safety of our employees, teams, players and fans is paramount,” the NBA said in a statement on Monday.

The NBA said it has been taking advice from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We are coordinating with our teams and consulting with the CDC and infectious disease specialists on the coronavirus and continue to monitor the situation closely.”

The global spread of COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the international sporting calendar with Formula One motor racing, golf and athletics among the sports canceling or postponing events.

In Italy, the hardest-hit European country with 148 deaths from the novel coronavirus, all major sports events, including football matches, will be played behind closed doors until April 3. Six Nations rugby games in Italy have been postponed.

Davis Cup tennis ties in Italy and Japan are being played behind closed doors this weekend.

The World Health Organization has called the spread of the virus “deeply concerning” as a wave of countries reported their first cases of the disease — which has now killed nearly 3,500 people and infected more than 100,000 across 92 nations and territories.


Arteta eyes new signings as Arsenal shed fringe players

Arteta eyes new signings as Arsenal shed fringe players
Updated 22 January 2021

Arteta eyes new signings as Arsenal shed fringe players

Arteta eyes new signings as Arsenal shed fringe players

LONDON: Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is focusing on potential signings in the January transfer window after trimming his squad but refused to be drawn on a loan move for Real Madrid’s Martin Odegaard

Sokratis Papastathopoulos was released from his contract this week, while Mesut Ozil is on the brink of a transfer to Turkish club Fenerbahce.

Sead Kolasinac and William Saliba have already left on loan deals as Arteta seeks to re-balance his squad.

The Arsenal boss, speaking ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round match at Southampton, would not be drawn on reports linking the club with a loan move for Real’s attacking midfielder Odegaard.

But he said the focus would now turn to the entrance door rather than the exit at the Emirates.

“We are in that process now,” Arteta said on Thursday when asked if it was now time to start bringing players in.

“We have done the first part more or less and we are focusing now on the second phase.

“Obviously this market and the context makes it difficult, but we are looking at options and we will see what we can do.”

Arteta, whose team are FA Cup holders, said the departures had left his squad short in certain areas.

He said a left-back could be on the radar, with the decision to allow Kolasinac to join Schalke until the end of the season leaving him with only Kieran Tierney as a natural option.

“With the departure of Kola we are a little bit short with left-footed fullbacks at the moment,” he added.

Both Ozil and Sokratis were omitted from Arsenal’s Premier League and Europa League squads for the first half of the season.

Arteta had stressed several times he was unhappy with the bloated nature of the squad and feels the departures will help him achieve a better balance.

“We could not carry on with 31 players in the squad,” he said. “It is unmanageable. And when you have to leave some of the foreign players out, it makes it even  more difficult.

“To do it for a few weeks is OK, to do it for months and maintain the health, the ambition and the chemistry is really complicated.

“So one of the main objectives was to make some decisions about how we are going to offset that. We have done it.”