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Ice Palace problems rain on Magic game

Orlando and the L.A. Clippers pull their starters after condensation builds up on the arena's court.

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times,
published October 22, 2001


TAMPA -- Fans at Sunday night's Orlando Magic-Los Angeles Clippers game who hoped to see some preseason NBA action instead left with a physics lesson.

What happens when it's pouring rain outside the Ice Palace, thousands of fans are arriving late because of the Bucs-Steelers game, and there's only a few inches separating the basketball parquet from the ice of the Tampa Bay Lightning?

The answer: condensation.

That's what was covering the Ice Palace court when Magic coach Doc Rivers and Clippers coach Alvin Gentry pulled their teams off with 4:26 left in the first quarter. And never mind that leak from the ceiling.

Rivers was not about to let Grant Hill, Patrick Ewing, Darrell Armstrong and Horace Grant risk their careers on a wet floor. Not in the preseason.

Which is why 17,584 watched Orlando's reserves fall 105-97 to Los Angeles' reserves as both sets of starters watched from the bench, laughing it up and huddling for warmth.

So what went wrong?

"I think it was a rush of people who came in to the game, probably from the Bucs game," Rivers said, "and it got too warm, (creating) the condensation. That's the best I can come up with. It sounds good, though."

Very good. Now here's the technical explanation.

"It was a combination of factors, high humidity and a warm building," said Bill Wickett, Lightning vice president of public relations. "The doors of the building were open for a long time because of fans coming late. It was raining (hard) outside, so the humidity cranks up. Our dehumidifiers are running, though not at capacity, and with the ice and floor this close apart (Wickett holds his hands four inches apart), that's it."

The solution: Shut the doors and crank up the air conditioner. That's why the building was freezing in the second half, but the condensation was reduced and the floor was playable. And that dripping across from the Clippers' bench? A leaky air handler, which was soon fixed.

"The leak didn't bother me," Rivers said. "The condensation scared me. I mean, I'm standing out of bounds and my feet are sliding. I know I'm heavy, but I'm not that heavy."

But regardless, Rivers wasn't going to put his best on that floor. Hill, Ewing, Armstrong and Grant stayed on the bench.

"It was pretty dangerous," Grant said. "I mean, it's not like jumping off a building or anything, but it was slippery, and plus it was cold out there and you're sweating a lot, which just made it worse."

Said Rivers: "It's too bad for the Tampa fans because we were going to play our guys for a good amount of minutes."

Orlando's Troy Hudson led all scorers with 25 points, and he dished out seven assists. Rookie Steven Hunter had 19, most on dunks, Monty Williams chipped in 14 and Pat Garrity had 11. Quentin Richardson led Los Angeles with 21, Obinna Ekezie had 17, Harold Jamison 15 and Keyon Dooling 13.

Contrast that with the starters: Ewing had five and Hill four, while Clippers Elton Brand and Lamar Odom had two apiece.

The Clippers jumped out to a double-digit lead after all the starters left in the first quarter, and they stretched the lead to as much as 24 points in the second half.

The game was originally scheduled to be played in Mexico City, but all international games were canceled by the league after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I don't know," Hill said. "First the game was canceled in Mexico, and you see what happened (Sunday night).

"Maybe this game just wasn't meant to be."

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