I was disappointed.
I blame it on P.J. Carlesimo.
It was the Thunder coach who threw out the number — “15,000.”
I remember thinking when he said it Saturday that there was no chance Monday’s open practice would draw that many fans. But then I had 24 hours to think it over and at some point Sunday began to think that far-fetched figure could be a possibility.
Instead, I walked into the Ford Center and saw an estimated 3,000 fans seated in the lower bowl to watch Oklahoma City’s NBA team drill, stretch and scrimmage.
It was a nice crowd that I would have been impressed with had those five digits not been floating around in my cranium the past 24 hours.
Talking with a national writer throughout the scrimmage, I shared my humble opinion with him about OKC fans. I suggested this city has tasted the big time and no longer flocks to see open practices. No longer craves anything but “the real thing.” Had the Hornets not played the better part of two seasons here, I figured, perhaps Monday’s practice would have drawn 15,000. It’s not unheard of even in long-standing NBA cities.
Michael Ravina, the Thunder’s PR whiz who left Golden State for his current position, remembered the Warriors hosting an open practice and receiving a flood of loud and proud fans. That was the season after the team’s magical run to and in the playoffs, when Golden State upset Dallas in the first round.
Maybe I’ve got it backwards. Maybe OKC will draw packed houses for practices when the team evolves into a playoff mainstay.
Maybe there will come a day when OKC really thumbs its collective noses at preseason ballgames and such. When 16,410 on a Tuesday night against the Clippers will be the exception not the rule.
What do you think?