Fans get up-close look at Pelicans in open practice
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
During Friday’s preseason game at Orlando, New Orleans Pelicans center Greg Stiemsma gave one of the Magic’s courtside fans a lot more than she bargained for when she purchased a ticket. While chasing a loose ball near the sideline, Stiemsma accidentally barreled into a pregnant woman, knocking her to the ground. Fortunately for the fan, she was OK after taking a few moments to regain her composure.
The 6-foot-11, 260-pound Stiemsma later tweeted about the incident: “I’m really really sorry to the lady I took out when I dove over the chairs tonight! It’s kinda hard to hit the brakes at this size!”
Roughly 16 hours after the Florida collision, Stiemsma and his Pelicans teammates were participating in more fan interaction – this time of the non-contact variety. New Orleans held its annual open practice for Pelicans fans on Saturday morning, featuring an intrasquad scrimmage at the New Orleans Arena and a question-and-answer session in which spectators got to ask players questions.
After the Blue and White teams played to a 55-all tie in the scrimmage – Lance Thomas was the game’s leading scorer and unofficial MVP with 18 points – newcomers Stiemsma, Jrue Holiday, Anthony Morrow and Tyreke Evans fielded queries from first-time Pelicans season ticket holders.
A grade-school-aged girl asked the group, “What’s it like to be a professional basketball player?”
“I’m from a small town in Wisconsin and my high school class only had 26 people,” Stiemsma said. “To be that one kid to make it, and to be able to play basketball for a living, I’m very grateful.”
Following Saturday’s open-practice fan Q&A, a smiling Stiemsma said he was also pleased to hear from the Orlando female fan with the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time Friday. The fan apparently started a Twitter account after the Pelicans-Magic game, at least partly in order to tweet to Stiemsma and say she was fine. It was a relief for Stiemsma, who successfully saved the ball back in bounds to continue play and therefore couldn’t linger in the Amway Center crowd to monitor the woman’s condition.
“It was tough because I was like, ‘Are you OK?’ ” said a good-natured Stiemsma, who was stunned to realize what he’d done when he saw the woman prone on the floor. “But then I kind of had to be like, ‘OK, I have to go back to the game now.’ ”