While watching from home, the Wizards’ first game in the Disney World bubble on Wednesday night didn’t feel all that different from the ones they usually play. There were no fans, but the crowd isn’t where viewers generally train their eyes, anyways. You watch the court and on the court were 10 very tall, very athletic and very skilled basketball players doing what they do best.
In the arena is where the major differences were seen and felt and members of the Wizards gave their own accounts following the team’s loss to the Denver Nuggets, which was their first of three exhibition games. Basically, it was undeniably strange.
«It was weird,» Rui Hachimura said.
«We can all hear everything on the court. At first it was a little awkward, but I feel like we really got used to it in the second half,» Troy Brown Jr. said.
«There’s no way around that. There’s no way you can make it like an NBA arena,» head coach Scott Brooks.
The NBA did do their best with the sightlines, covering the stands with signage representing the home team. The court is basically surrounded by black curtains with team logos and slogans printed on them.
On TV it sort of looks like college basketball’s ‘Battle 4 Atlantis’ tournament where the crowd sits in pitch black with neon lights here and there. Like those games, the aesthetic in Disney World puts the focus entirely on the court and not what happens outside the lines.
Brooks, for one, took notice of the NBA’s efforts.
«We would rather have fans, but I love what the NBA has done. They had a pretty cool environment,» Brooks said. «They really did a lot of great thinking to put this together. It’s as good as it could possibly be without being in an NBA arena.»
The sights are one thing, the sounds are another and the silence of the arena stood out most to Brown. He said the lack of usual NBA arena noise was so distracting it affected the Wizards’ play in the first half.
They looked rusty with a series of missed layups and miscues, and Brown thinks that was nerves from the unfamiliar environment.
«We realized that we have to bring our own energy. I think that was the biggest thing because there’s no fans and nobody’s out there clapping except us,» Brown said.
«We have to be the biggest cheerleaders for each other. I think that’s what made us more comfortable in the second half. The jitters were gone and it was really quiet in there and you couldn’t really hear much. The biggest thing was just us realizing that we have to be good teammates and clap for our teammates and yell and talk for them.»
It remains to be seen how that will affect games. Will opponents now be able to throw players off with well-timed trash talk from the bench, maybe as they are about to release a shot?
In some ways it’s a whole new game in the bubble, but it is still basketball. And the joy of being back on the court helped the Wizards overcome all of the unusual circumstances.
«We missed it,» Brooks said. We missed being around basketball. I missed coaching.»
«It’s just basketball, regardless of whether there are 20,000 people in there or just five people,» Brown said. «As soon as the ball tipped up, I was ready to go. It was just hoops.»
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Wizards describe ‘weird’ first game without fans in Disney World bubble originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington