A drummer shouts throughout the arena – presumably to a team of breakdancers – “You all look weird there.” In previous years, his voice had not yet moved.
Shortly before tipoff, the Nets released a video of the players featuring lyrics from the Bill Witcher classic, “Enemy No Sunshine”, dedicated to absent fans. Then net guard Kyrie Irving waved the crowd on either side of the court; In a field with hundreds instead of thousands, fans may have been forgiven for thinking that Irving was waving them in person.
“It felt like you’re sitting in your living room,” said 27-year-old Dylan Shultes. There are not many people around me. But still this game environment is directly in front of you. You could hear them talking to each other. Sick. “
Some in the building tried to maintain traditions, such as trying to disrupt free-throw shooting of opponents. On Tuesday, that effort – usually by thousands of fans screaming and waving objects – fell to four drummers behind the basket, sometimes joined by five dancers. (Statistically, they can claim success: Kings Shot 13 of 19 from Rekha, Little Below their season average.)
As for the game itself, the Nets led most of it and won their seventh straight, 127–118. Bruce Brown, who was the starting guard, got a rare turn in the spotlight with 29 points, as did James Harden, who had a triple-double: 29 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists.
For the most part, the crowds – scattered on the court seats, luxury suits and lower levels – remained suppressed, despite being the most hyped net team in years to see in person.
“It looks like you’re watching a practice session,” said 42-year-old Rich Shaffer, the season-ticket holder. “You’re in a high school gym, and there’s nobody there. But you are looking at the best players in the world. This is not the same energy you get during sold-out games. But as a basketball fan there is something incredible, watching and listening to what is happening around you, watching everyone talk and not get distracted. “