The Kings first noticed it during their morning shootaround. The court at the Wells Fargo Center felt slick, the conditions didn’t seem right.
By the time both teams arrived to the arena for pregame warmups on Wednesday, players were unable to get a grip with their sneakers.
“It’s squeaking,” Omri Casspi commented as he ran his foot over the court.
The floor was so slippery, Robert Covington said, some players didn’t want to go through their warmup routines.
As the game neared, arena staff members were on the court with wet mops trying to alleviate the problem. The Sixers and Kings made a request to the NBA to delay the 7 p.m. start. The extra time wasn’t enough to resolve the conditions. A little over an hour after the scheduled tip-off, the matchup was postponed (see story).
"The Philadelphia 76ers announced that tonight's game against the Sacramento Kings has been postponed due to an issue with the surface of the court and with player safety in mind,” the Sixers said in a statement. “Arena officials worked diligently to address the issue, but NBA officials determined that the court was not suitable for play.”
Before that, the Sixers, Kings and game officials worked collaboratively on how to proceed. Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and vice president of basketball operations/general manager, Vlade Divac, were in the arena, which Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil said made for an “easy dialogue.” O’Neil also added the referees were in unanimous agreement.
The decision was ultimately made by the league, which issued its own announcement that the game was “postponed due to unsafe playing conditions on the arena floor.” The players understood the ruling.
“Playing on a slick floor, that’s a risk that’s waiting to happen,” Covington said. “They weren’t willing to put our careers in jeopardy. The good thing about it, they tried their hardest to get everything taken care of, but it just kept getting moist. They did what they were supposed to and they made the best decision.”
Said Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins, “It’s a little disappointing. Guys were looking forward to playing tonight and coming out there doing what we love to do. It’s unfortunate, but at the same time I think they made the right decision. They put the players’ safety first and that’s how it should be.”
What led to the moisture?
The cause of the problem has not been determined. There are several factors to look into and possibilities to explore. John Page, president of the Wells Fargo Complex, was alerted of the moisture around 6 p.m.
“It’s an extremely unfortunate situation,” Page said. “Player safety is the most important thing for us as we look at our playing surface. We’re not exactly sure what caused the situation. Was it condensation? Was it preliminary activity during the day? Those are all the things that we’re going to investigate to see what would have caused this so that it doesn’t happen again.”
Multiple people who arrived to the arena hours before scheduled tipoff commented the temperature inside was uncharacteristically warm. Wednesday’s forecast was on the higher side for Nov. 30, in the 60s with rain.
“[The indoor temperature] ranges based on the outside temperature,” Page said. “With our ice surface, sometimes humidity is our biggest opponent when you look at how we prepare for a game. Those are things on every daily and pregame prep we evaluate what our humidity levels are, what our in-arena temperatures are and what the outside conditions are as well.”
The Wells Fargo Center, owned by Comcast Spectacor, is the Flyers' home arena. The Sixers essentially are tenants in it, with their basketball court laid on top of the ice. The question of whether the ice played into the problem was posed.
“We looked at some of the outside ancillary areas and there’s no visible condensation on our ice deck,” Page said. “So that’s what caused us to figure out, what really caused this issue and how do we address it?”
The NBA will reschedule Wednesday’s game for a later date. The coordination is trickier than other matchups since the Kings are in the Western Conference. They currently are in the middle of their East Coast swing, which includes Brooklyn, Washington, D.C., Boston and New York.
There has been talk of squeezing in a return to Philadelphia in late-January. The Kings have trip in which they are scheduled for seven games in 11 days from Jan. 21-31. It isn’t exactly in the Sixers’ backyard. Sacramento plays in Memphis, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Indiana, Charlotte and Houston during that stretch.
The building staff will have to find the root of the problem, and its solution, quickly. The Wells Fargo Center is booked over the next three days. On Thursday, Five Finger Death Punch and Shinedown have a concert. The Sixers play back to back home games on Friday and Saturday evenings. The Flyers also play an afternoon game on Saturday as part of a doubleheader for the building.
“It’s something that you don’t ever want to have happen,” Page said. “It’s a black mark and we take great pride in what we do. We perform flawlessly all the time in what we do. Look at the quick changes and how we execute. We’ll make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
What happens to the tickets?
The Sixers will honor Nov. 30 tickets for the rescheduled date. Those who had tickets for the game will also receive complimentary ones from the Sixers for one of three upcoming home games. They can choose from Dec. 5 against the Nuggets, Dec. 14 against the Raptors or Dec. 18 against the Nets.
"I know this is a tremendous inconvenience for the fans," O'Neil said. "I certainly apologize on behalf of the organization."
For fans who paid for parking at the arena, parking receipts will be honored at the rescheduled game.