FIRST the Los Angeles Lakers were forced to skip a championship parade, and now they are asking their fans to wait even longer for an up-close-and-personal gathering.
The defending NBA champions announced Wednesday that they will start the 2020-21 season without fans at their home arena, Staples Center, and then assess the situation as the season progresses.
The Los Angeles Clippers, who also play at Staples Center, have not announced an attendance plan for the upcoming season, but they are expected to take the same stance to start the schedule as their cotenant.
The Lakers said their decision was made with more than a month remaining before the season after guidance from state of California leaders, as well as local health officials.
The team’s official stance is that games will be held without fans “until further notice.”
“The health and safety of our fans, players, staff and community are our main priority and we will continue to work with state and local officials to come up with a plan to safely welcome fans back to Staples Center in the adherence with local, state and NBA guidelines,” the team said in a release.
The NBA officially agreed this week on a Dec. 22 start to the upcoming season that will include 72 games, 10 less than usual. An NBA season typically starts in October but is being pushed back this year because of delays created last season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The just-concluded season was paused in March, resumed in late July in a “bubble” environment near Orlando and the Lakers came away with the title in early October with an NBA finals victory over the Miami Heat.
The Lakers’ announcement seemed to suggest the team will wait to raise its most recent championship banner until fans can attend home games.
“We appreciate your continued support and look forward to coming together, when it is safe to do so, to celebrate the raising of our banner and the quest for another NBA championship,” the team said.