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LeBron James changes his tune, says he would play with no fans in attendance

Lakers forward LeBron James, left, greets rapper Jay-Z

Lakers forward LeBron James, left, greets rapper Jay-Z after a game between the Clippers and the Lakers on Sunday in Los Angeles. Credit: AP/Mark J. Terrill

LOS ANGELES — LeBron James met with the media Tuesday morning ahead of the Lakers’ game against the Nets later at Staples Center for the first time since new regulations closing NBA locker rooms went into effect in response to concerns about the coronavirus. James stood against a Lakers backdrop while media members lined up at least six to eight feet away from him.

With a playful smile, James said, “This is so much safer. You guys are such a threat. I miss you guys being right here [crowded around him]. It’s very challenging to do an interview like this.”

James noted that Lakers doctors have addressed the players about what precautions they should take to protect themselves. But he doesn’t expect concerns about the virus to be a distraction.

“With this particular issue, our franchise will handle it,” James said. “We’ll make sure to continue to do what we’ve been doing and just move on.”

As for the prospect that some NBA games might be played without fans in attendance because large crowds create an environment that could facilitate the contagion, James said, “When I was asked the question — ‘Would you play without no fans?’ — I had no idea there was actually a conversation going on behind closed doors about the particular virus. Obviously, I would be very disappointed not having the fans because that’s what I play for. I play for my family, I play for my fans.

“If they said no one could actually come to games, if they decide to go to that point . . . I’d be disappointed in that. At the same time, you’ve got to listen to the people who are keeping track of what’s going on. If they feel like it’s best for the safety of the players, the safety of the franchise, the safety of the league to mandate that, then, we all listen to it.”

James was listed as questionable but said he hoped to play against the Nets.

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