U.S head coach Gregg Popovich talks to player in a time-out during their exhibition basketball game in Melbourne, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

US-Australia basketball: Not all in crowd happy with seating

August 23, 2019 - 1:34 am
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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Not everyone was happy in the biggest crowd to watch a basketball game in Australia.

Kemba Walker scored 23 points to lead the U.S. over Australia 102-86 on Thursday before a crowd of 51,218 at a stadium that usually features cricket, soccer or Australian rules football games.

The roof at Marvel Stadium was closed and a raised court was placed in the middle of the field surrounded by hundreds of white chairs, more than 20 rows deep, for fans who paid for floor seating.

But some fans, including Hollywood actor Russell Crowe, complained on social media about views — or lack of them — from sections of the stadium. He said he was sitting in a seat that cost 1,500 Australian dollars ($1,000) but could not see the players.

"If you weren't among 50,000 there and you chose to watch it on TV at home, good decision," Crowe said on Twitter. "The only thing achieved tonight ... was enjoining with the promoters in ripping off well-meaning lovers of the sport. It was a farce."

Australia and the U.S. will play a Saturday afternoon game at the same stadium.

On Friday, Australia's main consumer agency said it investigating whether basketball fans were misled by promoters about seating and the expected NBA players at the game.

Before the game, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it had already received hundreds of complaints from ticketholders who claimed to have been misled about which players that were involved and wanted refunds.

"We've now added to that investigation whether or not consumers have been misled over the seating and the quality of the seating," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said Friday.

"We take allegations of misleading behavior very serious and the penalties for breaching the Consumer Act are significant. They were angry and wanted a refund.

"We can well understand that if something is advertised with certain elite players ... if you don't have the key players that could well significantly affect whether you're still interested in attending."

On Friday, local promoters issued a statement saying "it is worth noting the feedback to us has been strongly positive."

"TEG Live and Marvel Stadium worked with a number of fans at the game to make alternative arrangements," the statement said. "Of the 11,000 fans who had purchased floor seating to last night's game, only 200 people were relocated."

Despite the huge crowd, Australian media reported that some fans were issued refunds because they bought tickets based on promotional materials depicting Stephen Curry and LeBron James — who were part of the U.S. player pool when the deal was struck last year to play the games. Neither Curry nor James is on the U.S. roster for the World Cup starting on Aug. 31 in China.

Australia was also without its biggest star, Ben Simmons, who has opted not to play in the World Cup. Still, the Boomers starting lineup included four NBA players: Patty Mills, Aron Baynes, Joe Ingles and Matthew Dellavedova.

U.S. coach Gregg Popovich, at least, found some humor in the raised court, saying he felt like he was on a movie set.

"I kept looking behind me because I knew I was going to fall off the stage," he said.

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