The training staffs for the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat will probably still keep the extra ice packs, cold towels and beverages at the ready. But the Spurs announced on Friday that the faulty air conditioning system at AT&T Center – which contributed to LeBron James being unable to finish Game 1 because of severe cramps – has been fixed.
“The electrical failure that caused the AC system outage during Game 1 of the NBA Finals has been repaired. The AC system has been tested, is fully operational and will continue to be monitored,” the statement released by the team said.
Though James was the only player on either team to experience cramps as temperatures on the court approached 90 degrees, the extreme conditions affected all of the participants and the spectators. Players drank additional fluids to stay hydrated and applied cold towels to maintain their body temperature. Fans in the arena used the placards in their seats as fans, waving them throughout the game.
The Spurs didn’t fully address the problem until issuing an apology before the fourth quarter and mentioning that a power failure caused the heat inside. San Antonio’s game operations department attempted to make light of the situation by playing Nelly’s, “Hot in Herre,” during a stoppage in play.
Tony Parker joked that he was used to playing under those conditions because there is no A/C in Europe. Manu Ginobili had similar experiences but was relieved to hear that the problem was addressed before Game 2.
“Very happy to hear that. I got home, turned the A/C to 64 and lay down on my couch there for a few minutes. It was a tough one. I guess it happens. It happens in your home and it happens in an arena, it can happen many places. So you got to face it and play through it,” Ginboili said. “I was tired. I had to hydrate but not very much different than what I do after every game. I lost a pound more but…you got time to refuel and get ready again.”
Tim Duncan said he hadn’t played basketball in such a hot venue since he left the islands. “It was definitely hotter than normal,” Tim Duncan said on Friday at the Spurs’ practice facility. “We were all sweating more than normal. We made it through.”
James, however, did not. Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra defended James – who sat the final four minutes while the Spurs staged a 16-3 run – by stating his muscle spasms came as the result of exerting too much energy. Spoelstra, who called the frustrating ordeal, “Crampgate,” added that the Spurs should be punished if the situation happens again.
“It’s like trying to play you know, an NBA basketball game in a hot yoga environment. It’s not ideal. We’re not making excuses for it, we’re trying to adapt on the fly and it was at an extreme level,”
Spoelstra said. “It was an extreme, unfortunate situation for both teams. It probably won’t happen again, ever. Now, we might have to deal with the absolute opposite in Game 7, who knows. It will be 55 degrees in the arena, unless they don’t get it fixed, which if they don’t, there should be a fine.”
Parker wasn’t complaining about claiming a 110-95 victory in the series opener, but he hopes that the mechanical problems are resolved for Game 2.
“I want the A/C to come back, I want to play the real Miami Heat, the two‑time champs, with LeBron back,” he said. “I hope it’s not bad. And I hope he’s going to be 100% on Sunday. Because as a competitor you want to play against the best and that’s how I feel.”
The situation harkened back to Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals, when the Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 121-103, as temperatures reached 97 degrees inside the old Boston Garden. Larry Bird scored 34 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the win, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar needed an oxygen mask on the bench.
“I suggest that you go to a local steam bath, do 100 pushups with all your clothes on, then try to run back and forth for 48 minutes. The game was in slow motion. It was like we were running in mud,” Abdul Jabbar said after that game.
That game went down as part of the legend of late Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach, who many speculated sabotaged the temperatures at the Garden to give his team an advantage.
After Thursday’s game, Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich joked that he hoped that the Spurs could “pay our bills” to make sure that the arena will have a controlled, cooler temperature. But he couldn’t resist having some more fun when asked about the situation a day later.
“All I know is that I saw all the air conditioning people in the hallways on my way out last night,” Popovich said, “and I sent them home.”