When it became clear that Monday night’s Timberwolves game wouldn’t be played, that condensation had made the Target Center floor wet and slippery, coach Tom Thibodeau had an idea.
“I suggested practice over at the practice facility,” he said. “That didn’t go over too good.”
It is believed Thibodeau was joshing.
But this was no joke: Monday’s combination of unseasonably high temperatures and humidity in Minneapolis and a sheet of ice under the playing floor following five days of Disney on Ice shows resulted in condensation, an unsafe court and the postponement of the Wolves’ game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
A makeup date has not yet been set.
“First, I want to apologize to our fans,” Thibodeau said. “And certainly to the Trail Blazers. But, obviously, the safety of the players has to come first. It’s unfortunate. But it’s the right thing to do. And so, the game was canceled.”
The court was fine when the two teams held morning shootarounds. But when they returned for pregame warmups, conditions had changed.
Both Thibodeau and Portland coach Terry Stotts, whose teams both are in pursuit of a Western Conference playoff spot, started hearing complaints from players. At that point Ron Garretson, the chief of the officiating crew for the game, was summoned. Target Center workers began trying to dry the court. The temperature in the building was turned down low, trying to cool the building. Ultimately, postponement was the only call that could be made.
“Obviously, when you make the trip you’re ready to play,” Stotts said. “But I’m glad the decision was made because players’ safety, safety for the officials. … You don’t want to put yourself in a position where injury is possible.”
The ice sheet was put in for the Disney On Ice shows that ran Wednesday through Sunday, and it will remain in place until the National Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament is held March 17-18. The NCHC tweeted an apology to the Wolves on Monday night, along with a clip of Steven Urkel from the TV show “Family Matters” with the line, “Did I do that?”
Conditions might have been exacerbated during the day, when arena doors were often left open as the changeover to basketball was done, allowing more humidity into the building.
In any event, it quickly became clear to the players that the floor was not safe for playing.
Wolves guard Kris Dunn said it was quite slick. Asked if the game could be played under those conditions, Dunn said no. “On a slippery court?” he said. “That’s like playing tennis in the rain. It’s just not happening. It just won’t happen.”
Meanwhile, Blazers player Meyers Leonard said the floor was “as slick as snot.”
In a word: unsafe.
“When it’s slippery, you’re always concerned,” Thibodeau said. “A player goes down, he slips, and there is an injury. That’s tough to live with.”
Said Stotts: “It was slick, obviously. But then there were patches that weren’t slick. So just going from a slick spot to a non-slick spot. I know they didn’t feel very confident going out there and playing 100 percent.”
The game is the second to be postponed in the league for this reason this season. A Philadelphia home game against Sacramento was postponed by a slippery court from Nov. 30 to Jan. 30. The Blazers also had a January home game against Detroit delayed a day because of bad weather.
This is not the first Wolves home game to be postponed. The Wolves were the designated home team for their game with San Antonio in Mexico City in December 2013 that was called off because of smoke in the arena and moved to Target Center later that season.
The Wolves said fans with Flash Seats tickets will automatically be issued new tickets to the game when it is rescheduled.
“They’ll look at the dates we have available, the dates they have available, they’ll find a way,” Thibodeau said.
But it is the Blazers who will have to fly back to the Twin Cities again.
“Whenever that is, it’s going to be a challenge,” Stotts said.