New York, June 26 --
And they're off!
It wasn't Pamplona, Spain, but when the doors opened to The Theater at Madison Square Garden at 6:30 ET on Wednesday, it was the running of the Bulls fans.
And the Knicks fans. And the Nets fans. And the Clippers fans ...
While it's not shown on television, the dash up the escalators to the general admission seats in the Theater is somewhat tempered by ushers yelling, "Don't run!" while sticking out an arm like a crossing guard.
Many people listened. Some New Yorkers took to the guards' entreaties like they take to "Don't Walk" signs: the ushers were ignored. After all, seats close to the stage were at stake.
Still, the auditorium was full and nearly everyone seated -- safely -- when TNT went to air at 7 p.m.
THE YANKEE CLIPPERS
In New York, you can walk down for a block and hear four or five different languages.
Clippers fans in attendance on Wednesday were pleased with the selection of Wilcox.
(Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty Images)
With one sweeping glance of the Theater on Wednesday, you could see about 14 or 15 different jersey, with Knicks, Nets and Lakers heavily represented.
Two of the first fans to get to their seats, Michael Palmer, 19, and George Brown, 19, both of the Bronx, had their Darius Miles replica jerseys on.
"I would like to see [the Clippers] take DaJuan Wagner at No. 8," Palmer said. "I think he'd fit in with Quentin Richardson and, of course, Darius Miles."
"I saw him play [at Madison Square Garden] in the NIT," Brown said. "I love his game."
When Wagner went to Cleveland at No. 6 and the Clippers took Maryland's Chris Wilcox at No. 8, Palmer's enthusiasm was not dampened.
"Wilcox can be the brawn, and Elton Brand can be the finesse," Palmer said with a wide smile. He was not daunted that Wilcox and Brand play the same position. As they say, everyone is happy on draft day.
WELL, NOT EVERYBODY
When they entered The Theater, Knicks fans were already buzzing about a rumored trade bringing Antonio McDyess to the Big Apple for the Marcus Camby, Mark Jackson and the rights to the No. 7 pick. Fans were working their cell phones as tirelessly as general managers.
"What's the deal?" was the most asked question on those phones. Even the women who were selling the 2002 NBA Draft caps were weighing in on the Knicks pick.
"I think they need to add a bug guy," said one.
Greg Packer, of Huntington, N.Y., who was attending his second draft, had an opinion as to who the Knicks would draft.
"They need Wilcox," Packer said. "They need to get bigger."
When the Knicks selected Maybener "Nene" Hilario at No. 7, the boos rolled toward the stage like a thunderstorm over the plains. Then, they asked for the Knicks' GM's head.
"Leave it to the Knicks," Packer said. "If the trade goes through, then McDyess is OK, but then you have passed on Wilcox and Butler.
"I can only hope Butler would last to No. 25."
Ah, that wasn't going to happen. Butler went to Miami at No. 10.
MR. LEE, YOUR THOUGHTS?
Ubiquitous Knicks fan and movie director Spike Lee was in attendance, sitting in the front row right behind the Green Room, which is neither green, nor is it a room.
New York writers surrounded Lee when the Knicks pick was announced. Yet, when TNT showed highlights of Kiki Vandeweghe talking to Nuggets season ticket holders, Lee held out his hands to quiet reporters. When Vandeweghe spoke of the trade, heads turned to Lee.
"But can he stay healthy," Lee said of McDyess. "Can he stay healthy?"
When Yao Ming was selected at No. 1, a group of Chinese media politely applauded the pick and then snapped digital photos of themselves with Yao's image on the video screens behind them.
OTHER ASSORTED NOTES
When TNT went to break after the No. 5 pick, Caron Butler excused himself from the Green Room to go to the bathroom. That was a no-no.
"He can't be in the bathroom, he might be picked next," said one NBA employee coordinating the Green Room ...
One of the biggest cheers of the evening was for Casey Jacobsen's girlfriend, Brittany. Fans who had partaken in fermented malt beverages for most of the evening bellowed, "The Knicks should trade for her!" ...
Maryland guard Juan Dixon was not in the Green Room, but he was in the Theater. He bounded to the stage when the Washington Wizards called his name at No. 17. "I've had to answer the critics all my life," Dixon told reporters. Still, one fan was star struck as he told his story into a cell phone. "Man, Juan Dixon was sitting five rows in front of me," ...
For the last time, I don't know where the bathrooms/elevator/concession stands are ...
AND FINALLY ...
Only the hardiest of fans were around at the end of the four-hour draft. Five of them who moved into the "Reserved for NBA" area late were there to support their guy, Fordham's Smush Parker.
Tom and Liam Brennan were managers for Fordham's men's basketball team.
"He was a great guy," Tom said.
"He was one of the few who said, "Please" and "Thank you," added Liam.
Alas, nice guys finish last. And some don't get drafted. Parker wasn't selected on Wednesday.