It wasn’t a loss. It was literally a lost game.

A small leak in the roof of the Smoothie King Center allowed rain to gather near the free throw line, delaying a 7 p.m. tipoff for one hour, 43 minutes before announcing the official postponement of Wednesday’s matchup between the New Orleans Pelicans and Indiana Pacers, because of player safety concerns.

The game will be made up at a later date, which has yet to be specified.

“We don’t know what the cause is,” SMG general manager Alan Freeman said. “This didn’t reveal itself until the players left the court for their early shootarounds. We had no problems at that point in time. The best I can tell, the rain started coming in at 6:30.

“The problem with a roof leak is you never really know exactly where the intrusion is coming from. It could be 100 feet from where the water is actually dripping in right now. It’s not really possible for us to repair the roof tonight.”

Advocate staff photo by Jeff Nowak
A tarp designed to work as a temporary catch basin directs water away from the court after a roof leak delayed the Pelicans and Indiana Pacers game Wednesday night at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.

Instead, the SMG crew opted to build a temporary catch basin to contain the leak, hoisting a tarp with a hose attached toward the roof. Freeman said a crew would remain in place throughout the game to operate the catch basin, but Pacers’ coach Nate McMilland said he and Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry were uncomfortable with the solution.

“We just really didn’t want to take a chance of these players going out and playing on the floor with the possibility of a leak over the course of a two and a half hour game,” McMillan said. “It’s in an area where there is going to be a lot of action right around the free throw line.

“They wanted to try to get the game in, but we felt as coaches, and we got the GMs and owners involved, the conditions were not ready for these guys to play.”

The Pelicans neither own nor operate the Smoothie King Center, but team executives were gathered for the majority of the delay trying to unpack the various logistics involved with postponement.

Tickets for Wednesday’s game will be honored at the rescheduled date, and parking will be free. The Pelicans said additional refund information will be available on Thursday.

Freeman admitted the entire situation was additionally frustrating because the Smoothie King Center roof recently underwent inspections and they made various repairs.

“We did spend a good bit sum of money patching up some areas we were able to identify,” Freeman said. “This caught us totally by surprise.”

Several factions, including players (namely Anthony Davis), executives, and NBA officials took turns inspecting the court’s damp spot.

At 7:41 p.m. public address announcer Chuck Edwards told the gathered crowd, teams were cleared to play and would be taking the court for a 10 minute warmup before tipoff.

They never arrived.

“At the end of the day, it was all about player safety,” Pelicans’ general manager Dell Demps said. “It’s just unfortunate the decision took so long to make.”

As the Pelicans attempted to entertain the crowd with in-arena music and dance contests, players waited in their locker rooms, not even warming up in the hallways. There was little information to fans after Edwards’ initial announcements while the minutes nearly turned to hours.

Eventually, at 8:43 p.m. Edwards told those remaining the game had been formally postponed, setting off loud boos.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” said Charles McLellan of New Orleans, who was seated courtside with friends. “We paid good money for tickets and they don’t want to come out and play.

“I’d say I’m angry. They already got our money. We spent $100-plus on alcohol and they could’ve cancelled this 30 minutes ago. They knew they weren’t going to play.”

On the other hand, some fans got a peek into a rarely-seen experience. Students from Hammond High School were set to form the Pelicans’ fan tunnel and stood waiting between the locker room and court for more than an hour.

“We’ve had an incredible time even though it’s been delayed,” Hammond assistant principal Kimah Weber Davis said. “We have been able to see an aspect of the Pelicans’ game we would never see as regular fans. They’ve had up close pictures of Anthony Davis and various executives of the team who you’d never seen.

“So, patience is a virtue. The kids are having a valuable experience. I told them we could make our own documentary on this.”

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