Wizards hope fans returning is small step towards normalcy originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
For the first time in 13 months, the Wizards will open the doors at Capital One Arena to the general public as they recently received clearance from D.C. city government to do so.
They will begin with 10 percent capacity, about 2,100 fans. There will be a long list of protocols from mask-wearing requirements to social distancing to mobile ticketing.
But just having 10 percent of the building full of fans will be meaningful for the Wizards.
"I never would have thought I would be so excited to be playing in front of 10 percent capacity in an arena," head coach Scott Brooks said. "Ten percent, that’s a start. It’s a start towards bringing back normalcy."
The Wizards have not been known to sell out games as often as other teams, but they generally bring in announced crowds of about 16,000 or 17,000. Even accounting for those who don't actually use their tickets, any game can feature over 10,000 people.
So, it's going to be a much smaller crowd on Wednesday night, but given how long it's been, and their opponent, there should be plenty of energy in the building. The Wizards will host the Warriors, who have Stephen Curry, now the NBA's leading scorer. Bradley Beal of the Wizards is in second, meaning this will be a head-to-head battle in the race for a scoring title.
Center Daniel Gafford is expecting the fans to make a big difference.
"Having people just bringing energy to the game is going to be big for everybody. I’m pretty sure everybody’s going to be hyped," Gafford said.
Like Brooks, Gafford also expressed hope that Wednesday will be just the beginning of a road towards life returning to normal. He admitted that living through Covid has been "depressing," but is optimistic things will continue to change for the better as more people get vaccinated.
"I don’t mean no harm by this, but if people would get with the program and just do the things we have to do to get back to normal. Sooner than later it will be back to normal and I can’t wait for that, for sure," he said.
Coverage of Warriors at Wizards begins Wednesday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.