Editor’s note: Wednesday’s cancellation of the Kings game in Philadelphia due to a wet court surface sparked memories of the time former owner Gregg Lukenbill joined workers in patching the roof at Arco Arena with a banner on March 1, 1989. That game also involved the Philadelphia 76ers. Here’s the original game story from The Sacramento Bee archives:
The weather report from Arco Arena: wet and cloudy but partial clearing expected soon.
Wednesday night’s improbable 40-minute rain delay of the Kings-Philadelphia 76ers game – caused when a leak sprung in the arena roof – had Danny Ainge thinking back to his baseball days with the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I’ve seen this in baseball,” Ainge said. “If we’d played five innings, the team that was ahead won.”
The Kings led at the unexpected break, 94-91 with 9:39 left. As the teams returned to the court after a timeout, Philadelphia guard Maurice Cheeks looked skyward and noticed something strange.
Namely, rain. It was falling near the top of the key, about 20 feet away from the 76ers’ basket.
“You could see it clearly, “ Cheeks said. “They were heavy drops.”
Cheeks brought this to the attention of Hue Hollins, the lead referee. As the drip-drip-drip continued, Hollins grabbed a courtside telephone and called Rod Thorn, the NBA’s vice president of operations.
They played the waiting game, as ballboys spread towels around the court and maintenance workers scrambled atop the roof outside. Inside, Kings managing general partner Gregg Lukenbill led a charge of workers who spread a “Sacramento Sports Association” banner between beams, hoping to corral the rainwater gathering in puddles on the beams.
Forty minutes later, after many of the 16,517 spectators had fled, others opened umbrellas and speculation spread that the game would be canceled, the leak was patched.
“Every building has leaks in its roof,” said Greg Van Dusen, the executive vice president who manages the arena. “It’s unfortunate when you have one over the basketball floor.”
According to Van Dusen, about 12 workers climbed atop the roof on the outside, using “roof patch material” to close the leak. While they did that, Lukenbill and several others kept the rainwater already inside the arena high above the basketball court.
This was not an unprecedented happening in NBA history. On March 4, 1985, the roof at the Pontiac Silverdome collapsed under the weight of snowfall, forcing postponement of that night’s Detroit Pistons-Milwaukee Bucks game.
The Pistons played the rest of their home games that season at Joe Louis Arena.
Appropriately, notoriously soggy Seattle also has had some indoor rain. In a January 1986, game against Phoenix, the Sonics’ Al Wood slipped on a wet spot, pulling his right hamstring.
As ballboys spread towels around the court, a referee called timeout – a break that lasted 23 hours, until the teams resumed play the next evening.
Hollins did not want Wednesday night’s leak to cause a similar injury.
“Our first concern was the safety of the players,” he said. “The second concern was to get the ballgame in. There wasn’t any time limit.
“I was in contact with Rod Thorn and my supervisor, Darell Garretson. Before I made a final decision, I wanted to run it by them.”
Philadelphia coach Jimmy Lynam quickly offered Hollins a suggestion on[ finishing the game. If rain prevented the teams from playing in Sacramento, Lynam thought, they could finish the game March 9, when the Kings are scheduled to visit the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
The referees’ reaction?
“They appreciated my cooperation, “ Lynam said, smiling.
Like most of the players, Lynam could not recall ever seeing such a delay in an NBA game. He did say that it happened a couple of times during games he coached in Puerto Rico.
According to Van Dusen, the leak will be a one-time story in Sacramento. He said the patch is secure and that today’s schedule of prep basketball playoff games – four Sac-Joaquin section, Division I boys games begin at 4 p.m. – will go on as planned.
Just to be safe, bring your umbrella.