Both the San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves have left for home after their scheduled game was called off as smoke filled the Mexico City Arena when both sides were warming up.
The incident was caused by a generator malfunction outside the arena that sent thick smoke travelling through the building and 45 minutes before tip-off was due, the arena had to be evacuated.
Journalists from San Antonio apparently found out that the game was postponed via Twitter. There was allegedly no announcement from any NBA spokesman or arena announcers that the game was off. Jeff McDonald from the San Antonio Evening News reported that the smoke could have contained traces of cynide and arsenic. He was unable to get confirmation on that though.
The players were just as baffled as to what was going on with Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio among others, completely clueless.
"They just told us to leave," said the Spanish international in his native language.
It’s an unfortunate situation for the fans in Mexico who had been waiting patiently to see Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the Spurs take on Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and the Timberwolves. Instead they now wonder if there will be an NBA regular season game at all.
No matter how bad the timing of this incident is, especially as both the Spurs and Timberwolves had spent two days putting on special clinics for the kids and promoting the NBA in Mexico, the postponement has left 20,000 fans upset and the league possibly staying away from the country to avoid this sort of occurrence.
"I thought they were practicing fireworks," Spurs TV analyst Sean Elliot said. "A lot of teams do that before introductions. But then the smoke just kept creeping and it wasn't white smoke. It was like a brown dark smoke and it started taking over the whole court. It was surprising."
It was certainly a surreal moment – and unfortunately – one that the NBA will look closely into as it tries to expand the brand beyond North America. London’s 02 Arena has already hosted three regular season games but despite that, the organisers in Britain might be a little more cautious in their planning and game night preparation when the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets meet for the fourth regular season game in three years in mid-January.
The game is set to be rescheduled at a later date in Minnesota and fans that had purchased tickets in Mexico City will be fully refunded.
Photo: Miguel Tovar/LatinContent/Getty Images