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NBA downplays AC issue, AT&T Center says it's fixed

By Matt Moore | NBA writer

For LeBron, the struggle in Game 1 was real.  (USATSI)
For LeBron, the struggle in Game 1 was real. (USATSI)

More Game 1: Court Vision | LeBron's cramping | Steamy conditions

SAN ANTONIO -- After the air conditioning unit failed in Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, which led to LeBron James leaving the fourth quarter of a close game due to cramping, NBA President of Basketball Operations Rod Thorn spoke with the media and downplayed the seriousness of the issue.

"It was warm," Thorn said, forever capturing the title of 'Captain Obvious.' "In live sporting events, you know, sometimes you're going to have things transpire. I can recall playing in games in Boston Garden. I can recall playing in games in Chicago Stadium and also being the general manager of teams that played under conditions where the court -- where the atmosphere in the arena was very hot."

Thorn said the primary concern for the officials was safety.

"Had the referees felt at any time or had I felt at any time -- I was sitting the second row at midcourt -- were such that the game shouldn't be continued, then they would have come over and said something to me. Never did, I never said anything to them regarding the fact that the game should be canceled."

Thorn said there wasn't anything that could be done about it during the game. The explanation provided was "the air conditioning system essentially failed." In other words, the air conditioner broke. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported a breaker failure deep in the bowels of the labyrinth known as AT&T Center.

If you want the really worrisome part? Check out this quote from Thorn.

"We do not foresee any problems at all come Sunday. We think it will be fixed come Sunday [and] we will be able to play under normal conditions."

You don't "foresee" any problems? You "think" it will be fixed?

"If something were to transpire over the course of, say, tomorrow, where we felt maybe we wouldn't be able to play for some reason, then obviously we would look at something else."

So the reality is that Thursday night, the NBA had no way of knowing if the AT&T Center's staff can fix the issue and avoid a repeat on Sunday. Playing without AC isn't that big a deal despite complaints from media (and trust me, I had my share after running around in a sweatlodge for five hours). Most of the players shrugged off the idea that it impacted the game. But this is still an embarrassment for the league at this level, and even more so for the Spurs and AT&T Center.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been banging the drum for Milwaukee to put together a new arena. There are initiatives all over for new arenas to be built. Maybe fixing the conditions deep in the heart of Texas needs to be a bigger priority.

On Friday, the San Antonio Express News reported that the issue had been resolved.

And if there are other issues? What if there's a delay, messing up travel arrangements and rest times for the teams, which could give the Spurs, an older team, more rest? The repercussions of this simple thing failing are tremendous, and go beyond the fact that the best player in the world was sidelined in the fourth quarter of a two-point game because there was no backup system to account for the AC's system failure.

The NBA doesn't think it's a big deal, and the arena says it's fixed. But for a league that's come such a long way in terms of professionalism in 30 years, the Spurs' arena is certainly doing its best to hide that fact on the biggest stage.

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