Thunder's Danilo Gallinari favors games without fans if coronavirus worsens

OKLAHOMA CITY -- As all professional sports leagues consider steps forward to manage the worldwide coronavirus epidemic, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari said on Tuesday he would be in favor of closing games to fans if the situation worsens.

"I am in favor, because I see everything that's been going on in Europe, not just in Italy," Gallinari said. "In all of Europe, they stopped every game, they stopped every competition, in between countries, too, so it's not just Italy. The steps they did were playing normal games, then games without fans and now they're not playing."

The Italian national Olympic committee announced Monday that all sports would be halted until at least April 3.

"Hopefully we don't get to that point where we don't play games anymore, but maybe as a step forward to play some games with no fans," Gallinari said. "Hopefully that doesn't happen, of course, because playing without fans is a huge change for a player, too, when you play the game. But it's something the league has to do in order to prevent what's going on in Italy and not have it go on in the States, too."

Gallinari, a native Italian, has seen the impact of the virus on his home country in recent weeks, with Italy enacting a countrywide shutdown, asking people to stay home and seek permission only for essential travel. Behind only China, where the virus originated, Italy has been hit harder than any other country, with the most recent death toll climbing toward 500, according to the World Health Organization.

"It's a tough situation, and hopefully we'll be able to manage it and manage it right," Gallinari said. "The hospitals and all the health care institutions have done a great job right now managing the virus. We need all the people and the citizens to do the same thing and behave in the right way. Because that's going to be crucial in order to not have too many people in the hospitals and have doctors not be able to handle all the pressure."

Gallinari said he has been in contact with his family "multiple times" a day to keep updated on the situation.

"The life has changed when you cannot get out of the house, when you cannot have any contact with anybody," he said. "You can only get of the house if you have to, for example, going to the grocery store. Not having any contact with anybody, my mom and her brothers not being able to see my grandparents because of the age, they could be the most affected and maybe not be able to handle the virus. So it's a weird and tough situation for everybody and my family, too."

After consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, the NBA, along with other major U.S. sports leagues, closed locker room access as of Monday to media, allowing only essential personnel to interact with players and staff.

"Having that situation in my country ... I'm just trying to make sure my team understands the situation and they behave in the right way in order to prevent ourselves, and not just for us, but other people we get in contact with it," Gallinari said. "The NBA has done a great job giving us rules and news to follow.

"We can't do autographs, we can't be in contact with fans and shaking hands and high-fives and pictures. It's going to be different right now until the situation gets under control."