Empty seats for the Warriors; fear of coronavirus?

© John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — There was a question about Steph Curry. Then one about Draymond Green, neither of whom would play. Basketball, the game, the players, seemed almost irrelevant.

Sports, all kinds, at all locations, had become a prisoner of the coronavirus.

Pre-game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr kept getting asked whether games should be postponed, or played in empty arenas, or moved to safer venues.

After the game, the queries were more orthodox: How come the Dubs were crushed, 131-107, by the Los Angeles Clippers?

That may have been less difficult for Kerr to answer — “They’re the strongest, biggest team in the league, and they kept knocking down threes left and right,” said Kerr — although no less painful.

Kerr just makes the decisions about what happens on the court, not about the circumstances surrounding them.

“It’s an awkward situation,” Kerr said of how to react to the virus, whether to delay games, whether to play without fans, even whether to trim the season.

Unknown territory, worrisome territory.

The elements are profound, schedules that must be completed, multimillion-dollar television contracts that must be fulfilled. And, no less significant, the health and well being of spectators.

The Warriors, the Clippers, the Lakers have kept going in California, But on Sunday, the BNP Paribas tournament at Indian Wells, in the desert near Palm Springs, arguably the most important tennis event outside the four Grand Slams, a competition that draws 450,000 fans, was called off.

A shock, a financial blow. And a warning.

“If Indian Wells can be cancelled,” Donald Dell, the promoter, agent and onetime player asked the New York Times, “is any event safe?”

Nobody knows. What we do know is Santa Clara County has banned public gatherings of more than 1,000, which seemingly would mean an Earthquakes game on March 21 and Sharks games.

What we do know is UCLA, which was to host NCAA tournament games featuring its highly ranked women’s basketball team, has banned all home sporting events until April 10.

What we do know is that high schools throughout the state will not be competing in various events.

There is anger. There is frustration. On Sunday afternoon, a young tennis player from Europe qualified for Indian Wells, his first top-line event ever — and then a mere few hours later was notified there wasn’t going to be a tournament.

At least he received the payoff for the first round, $18,000, more than his combined winnings of the previous six months.

This is all beyond our control, certainly, like weather disasters. If games have to be moved, even cancelled, there’s nobody at fault. Are you going to blame that marketplace in Wuhan, China?

Ships quarantined, movie houses shut down. It’s bad. It may get worse. The NBA and the NHL are trying, with precaution, to stay the course, bottles of Purell, restrictions to who enters locker rooms, make it business as usual.

Maybe that works. Maybe the worst is over.

Maybe it barely has started.

How many are infected? How many will be affected? The possibility is a top athlete may be a victim. The reality is the public is already wary, maybe close to panic.

People are staying home. Restaurants, the top ones, Boulevard in San Francisco, are a third empty. As was Chase Center at tipoff off the Warriors-Clippers game.

Maybe it was the fear of coronavirus. Maybe it was the absence of Curry, but there were more vacant seats than at any game this year, something taken into account by Kerr.

“I thought early, as the game began, it didn’t look like there were many people here,” Kerr observed correctly. “Then later in the game, it looked like it was much more filled in. We were out of that game pretty quickly, so I didn’t expect to feel much energy from the crowd.”

Little energy, few fans and big problems.