The Rockets won Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals in regulation, but Monday night’s deluge stretched the proceedings into overtime for about 350 fans and at least one Rockets player, center Dwight Howard, who remained at Toyota Center as rain continued to fall early Tuesday.
Arena officials posted an advisory on the stadium scoreboard advising fans to wait out the storm as the game ended shortly before 11 p.m. Most left, but a few opted for discretion over venturing onto flooded downtown streets and freeways.
Most Rockets players headed for the exits, too, but Howard opted to wait it out after hearing from friends about treacherous road conditions.
“There’s no need to try to push it,” Howard said. “One of my friends just hit me up and said he’s stuck on the highway now. I don’t think it’s smart for anybody to try to be out on this weather.”
Howard waved to fans as he stayed on the court, but he was getting antsy for some entertainment as he waited.
“They’re showing the Weather Channel right now,” he said. “They need to put on a movie or something.”
Or, perhaps, as one bystander suggested, the Rockets-sponsored “Dwight Howard Show,” which airs on Root Sports Southwest.
“I think I’ll go back in the back and suggest that,” Howard said.
Howard wasn’t the only person at the arena worried about getting stuck on flooded roads.
“I have a low car, so I’m going to wait it out,” said Rod Royall, who lives in the Galleria area. “I’ve lived here my whole life. I know better than to think that I’m going to be different than the 10,000 other people that are having problems.”
Fans congregated on the arena’s side closest to La Branch Street as workers did their usual post-event cleanup to prepare for a scheduled Neil Diamond concert on Tuesday night. Crews at one point posted video from local television stations on the arena’s video board but also showed Rockets promotional videos while fans waited.
Royall said he was in New York during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 and during Hurricane Ike. Having been caught this time by the law of averages, he said he was prepared to wait as long as necessary to get home safely.
“I don’t think they’re going to make us leave,” he said. “I think they may be thinking that they have some liability if they do.”
A couple of sections over, Tyler Houtz of Houston was hoping that if he had to stay around long enough, the Rockets would offer him free tickets to the Diamond concert or perhaps to Friday’s Game 6, should the Rockets win Game 5 on Wednesday to extend the series.
“I love ‘Sweet Caroline,'” he said. “I’ve still got a lot of energy left. I want them to start playing some music. I want a dance party.”
Companion Jennifer Chen, however, was content to sit quietly for the moment.
“She’s getting tired,” he said. “I think she wants to leave me here.”
By David Barron | Reporter, Houston Chronicle