We explore some possible Los Angeles-area locations the Clippers could call home if the NBA returns using alternate venues.
No one is quite sure when the NBA season will resume, or exactly what it will look like when it does. Adrian Wojnarowski reported that many NBA owners and executives believe a best-case scenario for a return to action is mid-to-late June. Marc Cuban, on the other hand, is hopeful we could see games again by as early as mid-May.
The NBA is considering all options to resume the season, including games with no fans in attendance, and exploring the possibility of alternate home venues.
The idea of playing NBA games to an empty arena is strange, but might be necessary in our times of social distancing. LeBron James expressed his disappointment at the idea on the Road Trippin’ Podcast, saying, “What is the word ‘sport’ without ‘fan’? There’s no excitement. There’s no crying. There’s no joy. There’s no back-and-forth.”
But the idea of playing games to all-but-empty crowds does open up interesting possibilities in terms of locations. Watching a televised NBA game in an empty 20,000 seat arena might seem post-apocalyptic and dystopian. But the NBA could be getting creative in their thinking in order to secure locations that might provide a more interesting viewing, and playing experience.
Luckily for the Clippers, Los Angeles is one of the great basketball cities in the world. The city and surrounding areas provide plenty of unique options to possibly host NBA action. We wanted to explore a few of those here.
Gersten Pavilion – Loyola Marymount University
Home to LMU’s Lions, Gersten Pavilion is set in the middle of the university’s Westchester campus. It typically can seat 4,200 people and provides the home team with the advantage of playing in a tightly-packed, loud, high-school like gym. Much smaller than UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, or the Galen Center at USC, a televised game in an all-but-empty Gersten Pavilion would cut back on the eerie, empty arena vibes that would come from the larger venues.
The venue would also provide a bit of basketball history as it was home to the legendary LMU teams of the late 1980’s and early 90’s coached by Paul Westhead. The 1990 team still holds the NCAA record scoring an incredible 122.4 points-per-game as well as the single game mark of 186. The retired numbers of LMU greats Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers hang in the Gersten Pavilion rafters. Their heartbreaking story is a piece of Los Angeles basketball history that could be told again as a reminder of the power of sport to uplift in troubling times.
Charles Drew Junior High School
The gym at the corner of Compton and Firestone in South Central Los Angeles is surprisingly home to some of the most competitive basketball in the world. Every summer, 28 invitation-only teams compete in the Drew League, and crowds pack the tiny gym in hopes that basketball mega-stars will show up.
They’re seldom disappointed, as the list of NBA legends that have showed up to compete in the Los Angeles summer league include: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, Paul George, Metta World Peace, and countless other college stars and street ball legends.
The Drew League Foundation offers mentoring and support through sports activities for children in South Central Los Angeles and the surrounding communities. Having the Clippers play a televised game would provide the organization with an opportunity to spread the word about all the good they do in the community, and help raise funds for their charitable causes.
While the logistics of setting up an NBA game in an outdoor location could get tricky, a game on the famed courts of Venice Beach would provide a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean in a legendary street ball setting.
The league would need to find a way to set up a regulation NBA hardwood floor court and hoops in the area, and also block out any wind or other potential weather, but the setting would be ideal. The courts, prominently featured in White Men Can’t Jump, are typically packed with pick-up games all through the week, and busier on weekends. A game here would be a nice reminder of the way things were, and hopefully will be again soon.
Firestone Fieldhouse – Pepperdine University
Like Gersten Pavilion at LMU, Firestone Fieldhouse is another intimate home to a Los Angeles-area college basketball team. What Firestone provides is the beautiful coastal drive and oceanside Malibu campus of Pepperdine.
A game at Firestone would provide the television broadcast the opportunity to show off some of the gorgeous California coastline and idyllic Malibu beaches the area is famous for.
Various Recreational Centers
Los Angeles has an extensive offering of indoor basketball courts at various Recreation Centers around the city. While none of these options offer a particularly historic setting or scenic option, it could provide an opportunity to raise funds for the city and the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. The centers around the city provide facilities and sports leagues for the kids of LA and hosting a televised game would bring much-needed attention to their cause.
A return to NBA action without live fans at the games could be strange, but with a little creative thinking it could provide the league with a chance to feature historic basketball venues in cities all around the league with a more intimate and unique broadcast experience for the fans watching at home.