WHEN THE FINAL horn sounded Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the fans remaining in the stands cheered. No, The Process didn't take another step toward validation, nor did Joel Embiid outplay one of the most dominant centers in the NBA in Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins. They cheered because the horn marked the end of one of the strangest on-court nights in 76ers history.
On a day when Embiid's minutes restriction was upped four minutes to 28 and SI.com ran a lengthy, thought-provoking story about former general manager Sam Hinkie's post-Sixers life in California, the basketball gods decided no more stories concerning Philadelphia's professional basketball team were warranted, so they apparently screwed with the cooling system in the 20-year-old building, causing the ice underneath the court to seep through wood playing surface, causing wet spots and slickness that made it impossible to play basketball.
Add it to the list of strange happenings around this team over the last three-plus seasons.
As early as two hours before the game was due to start, workers were seen with towels, wiping the floor. But as the night went on and the heat seemed to rise in the building, it became clear that it would be too dangerous to send anyone out onto the floor to play.
The players were like kids waiting to be cleared for recess. Embiid and other Sixers players tried to go on the floor and get some shots up after the 7 p.m. starting time had passed, but were told to stay clear of the floor. At one point, Cousins himself grabbed a mop and helped those trying to dry the surface.
The shame of it all was that the night could have provided an interesting matchup between the dominating Cousins, who has averaged 35.3 points and 13.3 rebounds over his last four games, and Embiid, who was going to see real starter's minutes for the first time and was, according to coach Brett Brown, to be paired with Jahlil Okafor for some minutes.
But the puddles washed all that away.
"I think it's going to be a good learning experience for me, just going against him," Embiid said before the postponement. "The last game, he had 36 (points) and 20 (rebounds) and the game before that he had more than 30, so going against him is going to make me better and after the game I'll go watch the film and learn from him."
Scratch that. The matchup that so many had anticipated was washed away by a force bigger than any 7-footers, though blaming the ghost of Hinkie - which some jokingly did - couldn't have logically been the reason. Right?
"I think the biggest thing about them (Embiid and Cousins) is their ability to work out of double teams," said guard Nik Stauskas, who spent his first season with Cousins and the Kings. "DeMarcus would get doubled a lot and from the weakside block, he'd be able to throw a crosscourt skip pass with one hand over a double team. We've seen Joel be able to do the same thing, with splitting double teams and passing over them. It's not easy to do. It takes a lot of size and strength to do it, and an IQ for the game, and I think both of them have that.
"There are some similarities, but I think they are both different. DeMarcus is definitely a more back-you-down, strength and brute force kind of thing, whereas Joel has a lot more finesse to his game, even though he really is a strong guy."
Neither was strong enough to keep away the water that never stopped seeping through the screws that keep the wooden pieces of the court in place. And when public address announcer Matt Cord made it known at 8 p.m. that the game would have to be rescheduled (no date set yet), the fans and players were equally disappointed.
"I've never seen floor conditions like this," Cousins said. "We weren't really mad, just more disappointed. Guys go through their rituals to get to the game and, just like that, they tell us we're not playing. I'm glad it did go this way, with players' safety being first. We're trying to find something to do now. We'll probably hit up Geno's or something."
No doubt the 6-11, 270-pounder devoured some cheesesteaks after the postponement. That did nothing for those who wanted to see him and Embiid clash.
"(Cousins') numbers are just monster numbers, and he can play on both ends, just like Joel," Sixers CEO Scott O'Neil said. "It would have been a really fun matchup. These two teams are interesting young teams, so I think it would have been fun.
I don't think with this team, there ever is a blah night. I know how many wins we have and I know what our record is, but there's something about this team . . . You see it in our ratings, you see it in our ticket numbers, and you can feel it in the city. But it's more than that. When you actually come here and watch this team, you don't know what's coming every night."
Fitting he said that after a postponement, because it is oh, so true.