(MCT) — Citing severe weather conditions and safety concerns for fans and stadium employees traveling to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the NBA postponed Wednesday night’s Bulls-Pacers game roughly three hours before tipoff in Indianapolis.
In a release, the NBA said it will announce a rescheduled date and tickets for Wednesday’s game will be honored.
In a phone interview, Stu Jackson, the league’s executive vice president of basketball operations, admitted postponing a game for which both teams and officials already had arrived safely was an unusual step. The Bulls flew to Indianapolis after their home loss to the Rockets on Tuesday night.
“It’s rare,” Jackson said. “We err on the side of trying to get the game played. We’ve played some games with 2,000 people in the arena. In those cases, we didn’t think conditions put people in danger as they did (Wednesday). In cases where we’ve postponed a game, it’s mostly been because of dangerous conditions of travel for people who either attend or work the game.”
Jackson said he and league personnel remained in touch with officials from Indiana’s Emergency Operations Center, which provided updates on weather and traffic conditions. Most government offices in Indianapolis shut down because of the high winds and snow that ensnarled the city and beyond.
Southbound Interstate 65 slowed to a crawl and then a stop just north of Lafayette because of a crash involving semi trucks and icy conditions. A portion of the highway remained closed three hours before tipoff.
“The storm was supposed to taper off around 3 p.m., but there were concerns about wind and drifting,” Jackson said. “(Indiana EOC officials) said most of the counties around the city of Indianapolis were in emergency status, which meant only emergency traffic would be allowed. Given the fact fans come from within and outside the city, we thought it was in the best interests of fans, arena personnel and team personnel to postpone.”
Most of the Bulls’ traveling party received word as they were preparing for the short bus ride from the team hotel to the arena. Some players and team personnel already had arrived at the arena. They waited to make sure they weren’t required to remain in town for an immediate makeup date and while return travel arrangements were made, then took two buses to a local airport.
Once there, they spent close to two hours waiting to be cleared for takeoff and for de-icing. The Bulls arrived back in Chicago at roughly 8 p.m.
It’s the seventh postponement or cancellation in franchise history and first since Jan. 12, 2000. On that date, Charlotte Hornets captain Bobby Phills, 30, died in an automobile accident minutes after leaving a shootaround at Charlotte Coliseum. That game got rescheduled two months later.
Five games, including Wednesday’s, have been postponed or canceled because of snow. A Feb. 20, 1986, game against the Trail Blazers at Chicago Stadium got postponed by a day when fog at O’Hare prevented the Bulls from returning from a game in New Jersey.
Wednesday’s postponement might have come at a good time for the Bulls, who have lost consecutive games by double digits for just the second time in coach Tom Thibodeau’s tenure. Luol Deng limped out of the locker room late Tuesday, unsure if the right ankle he sprained in the first quarter and played through would allow him to face the Pacers.
Beyond physical pain, Deng noted the defensive breakdowns and lifeless play that has defined the back-to-back blowout losses.
“We have to get back to how we play,” Deng said. “We’re not playing with an edge.”
Thibodeau tried to shoulder the blame for Tuesday’s loss, saying he has failed in his job lately to have players prepared.
“If you don’t have an edge, you’re not going to win,” Thibodeau said. “You have to strive to be a 48-minute team. Right now, we’re nowhere close to that.
“We’re closing short to shooters. We’re not reading flat drives and penetrating drives. We’re not giving the proper stunt help. We’re not finishing our defense the correct way. Offensively, we’re not sustaining our spacing or playing with energy. We have to put the work and energy and intensity back into it.”
Players dismissed Thibodeau’s remarks, saying it’s their job to execute the game plan.
Facing the Pacers would’ve been a challenging test given they defeated the Bulls earlier this season and have won five of six games to take over the Central Division lead by a half-game over the Bulls. The Pacers entered Wednesday as the league’s best rebounding team and were allowing the lowest opponents’ field-goal percentage.
Those areas of strength won’t change much no matter when the game is rescheduled.