Wizards owner Ted Leonsis explains Verizon Center leak

At least we didn't get rained out. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
At least we didn’t get rained out. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Indoor rain delays aren’t commonplace in the NBA, so the roof leaks at Verizon Center still served as the dominant story line on a bizarre night in which the Wizards rallied from a 25-point deficit only to collapse again in a 114-107 loss to the Houston Rockets. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis wasn’t in his usual courtside seats on Saturday for his team’s fourth straight home loss but addressed the problems that contributed to the two delays, which totaled 57 minutes.

“The big freeze this past week might have created a small fissure in roofing materials, and as the rain came on and some ice was melting, some water was able to seep in,” Leonsis wrote on his personal blog, “Ted’s Take.”

“Our staff worked very efficiently to identify where the leaks were. And we always have staff on hand that are experienced with issues such as this. We also literally had to get atop of the roof outside to see what the issues were,” Leonsis wrote. “There were also staff up in the rafters and on the catwalks doing inspections and they were able to create a short term fix via some temporary tarp installation that stopped the leaks.”

Referee Derek Richardson noticed the first roof leak early in the second quarter when the game was tied at 29. Staffers used trash cans and towels to catch the falling water while Rockets center Dwight Howard clowned around with Wizards mascot, G-Whiz, and 10-year-old fan Sandro Dussek. The Wizards were outscored 34-17 in the period and the game was again interrupted by another delay at halftime.

“It was kind of tough because you can still be out there shooting, but we didn’t go back in. Our second group was in, and you’re still sitting on the bench still warming up, trying to keep yourself warm, that was tough,” John Wall said after the game. “In the start of the third quarter, we got warm and then they we didn’t know what was going to happen and they just gave us a minute to get ourselves ready and the time went by that quick. You don’t put that on delays.  We didn’t come out to compete and play basketball and [Houston] just kept building the lead.”

Leonsis thanked the fans for being patient during a wacky game that lasted three hours and 18 minutes while also explaining the danger of playing under such conditions. “A wet floor creates potential safety issues for the players. Player and fan safety are always foremost in our minds. The NBA, our employees, and frankly our ownership group and I were all in constant communication during the delays. I am proud of the work done by our staff to fix the issue.”

Leonsis said his staff spent all of Sunday working on the situation “to make sure this issue doesn’t occur again.”

Bradley Beal is hopeful that the problem is resolved. “That was terrible,” Beal said. “We had to stay focused as much as we can and try to stay warm and try not to get tired as much as we can.  I’ve never been a part of that and that’s hopefully something we can avoid in the future.  It’s a big distraction.  You can get too complacent and sometimes even forget that you are playing a game when you are waiting so long.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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