Denton: Magic-Heat Preseason Game Cancelled

By John Denton
October 22, 2010


TAMPA – Just seconds after Friday night’s much-anticipated preseason game between the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat was cancelled because of slippery floor conditions, head coach Stan Van Gundy had a thought that didn’t go over too well with his Magic players.

``The one thought that I had, which surprisingly the players were not in huge support of, was to make it back (to Orlando) and get a practice in tonight,’’ Van Gundy said semi-seriously. ``I mean, what the heck? We were ready to play? That was not met with great support. I’ve never had a (locker room) mutiny, but I might have been asking for one if I had followed through on that plan. I could tell from the response that it was a unanimous lack of support on that one.’’

The NBA league office made the decision an hour before tipoff to cancel Friday night’s nationally televised game between the Magic and Heat after the playing surface at the St. Pete Times Forum was deemed too slick. The facility hosted a Tampa Bay Lightning game the night before, but a cleaning solution – and not condensation – was blamed for making the floor extremely slippery in several spots.

``The league has to pull a game and all we could do was voice our concerns. There were just too many spots on the floor where guys could get hurt,’’ Magic President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith said. ``It’s risk-reward. We looked at it, the league looked at it and the official was out there looking at it. If one guy falls and gets hurt, I don’t know if that’s good for the league at all.’’

The exhibition, which was scheduled to be televised by ESPN, was officially the Heat’s home game. The Magic bussed over to the game Thursday afternoon and returned home Friday night. The Heat players had to stay at the St. Pete Times Forum for more than 2 hours after the cancellation because their team plane was not available.

The Magic finished the preseason 7-0, winning by an average of 25 point per game. The Magic open the regular season on Thursday at the Amway Center against the Washington Wizards. They play in Miami against the Heat on Friday.

``It’s hard to see all the fans at the game and we can’t play because of the floor,’’ Magic star center Dwight Howard said. ``It’s bad for them and a lot of guys wanted to play. Not just because of the whole Heat-Orlando thing, it was just that we’re playing in a non-NBA city and a lot of people came out to support us. I just hate it for them.’’

Tod Leiweke, the CEO of the St. Pete Times Forum, issued an apology to the fans in attendance at the game and promised ``complete and total refunds,’’ for those who bought tickets. The game was expected to be close to a sellout with more than 18,000 tickets already sold.

Leiweke said an improper cleaning agent was used on the floor when it was cleaned months ago, causing the slick spots. The basketball floor hadn’t been used for months and had been in storage and the slick spots weren’t noticed until Friday morning. Crews turned portable fans on the floor throughout the day and vinegar was rubbed on slick spots – all to no avail.

``Going up and shooting or even landing was a problem. And for catch-and-shoot guys I wouldn’t recommend going up into the air,’’ Magic guard Vince Carter said. ``It was slippery in so many different spots. It was one of those things where the safety of the fans was most important. I’m sure all of the fans wanted to see a great game, but it wasn’t safe.’’

The Magic first showed up at the arena Friday morning for a shoot-around practice, but it literally turned into a walk-through because of the slippery conditions. Workers mopped and cleaned the floor throughout the afternoon, but they were unable to dry the many wet spots all over the floor.

And the floor didn’t improve much in the two hours before the game. Several Magic and Heat players worked out before the game, but reported that the floor was still dangerous in several spots.

``This morning we literally couldn’t move out there and we had to walk through everything,’’ Magic guard J.J. Redick said. ``And when I came here today I asked some guys who had gotten here earlier and they said there were still some spots. When I did my walkthrough I was going about 50 percent speed and I was scared to do anything full speed because there were still some slick spots. It was like someone had taken some sticks of butter and rubbed down certain spots on the floor.’’

Van Gundy had planned to continue his experiment of using reserve center Marcin Gortat some at power forward and he hoped to get work for 12 players in the game. Van Gundy was joking about the Friday night practice back in Orlando, but insisted that the Magic would practice on Saturday following the scratched game.

But Van Gundy said the slick court conditions were no joking matter and he’s delighted that the NBA took the safety of the players into consideration.

``You have to give the league some credit that they put the safety of the players first,’’ Van Gundy said. ``Literally you couldn’t run on it (during the morning practice) because guys would have been slipping and getting hurt. From what I understood from players, the floor was a lot better (before the game). But there were still a few spots. It doesn’t matter that there are fewer spots because if somebody goes running on it and slips they would get hurt.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com. Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at AskJD@orlandomagic.com.