Mexico City: The NBA cancelled a rare game in Mexico City between the San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday after smoke from a generator malfunction engulfed the arena, forcing players to evacuate.
Players abandoned their warm-up and exited the 22,000-capacity Arena Ciudad de Mexico about an hour before tip-off as smoke entered the facility.
The game, which would have given Mexicans a rare chance to see big-name NBA players such as Spurs guard Tony Parker and regional star Manu Ginobili of Argentina, will now take place in Minnesota, the NBA said.
“The date for the rescheduled game, which will be played at Target Centre in Minneapolis, will be announced at a later time,” the National Basketball Association said in a statement.
It would have been just the second NBA regular season game in Mexico after the Dallas Mavericks played the Houston Rockets there in 1997.
The NBA initially announced a delay to the 8.30pm game as arena officials scrambled to vent the smoke out of the court and repair the power glitch. But the players eventually boarded their buses and left as fans stood outside the arena.
An NBA official told AFP that the teams could not wait long because they had planned to return to the United States late on Wednesday after the game.
“What happened today is a real shame. I’m really sorry for all the fans,” Spurs centre Tiago Splitter of Brazil wrote on Twitter. “We were excited to play this game. Big hugs.”
The $300-million arena opened in February 2012 and its website boasts that it is the “most important, comfortable, modern and safe facility” in Latin America.
Music stars such as Aerosmith and Maroon 5 have performed in the arena, which hosted an NBA pre-season game between the Orlando Magic and New Orleans Hornets last year.
The NBA has played 19 pre-season games in Mexico — more than any other country outside the United States and Canada.
Adrian Perez, an arena manager, told reporters that organisers would announce the mechanism to refund tickets in the next few days. He did not say how many tickets had been sold.
The Spurs are first in the Western Conference’s southwest division with 15 wins and three losses. The Timberwolves are in fourth place in the conference’s northwest division with nine victories and 10 defeats.
Results from the NBA games on Wednesday
CLEVELAND 98 Denver 88
ATLANTA 107 LA Clippers 97
Phoenix 97 HOUSTON 88
Detroit 105 MILWAUKEE 98
Dallas 100 NEW ORLEANS 97
Indiana 95 UTAH 86
PORTLAND 111 Oklahoma City 104
(Home team in CAPS)