Byline: Shawn Windsor
OKLAHOMA CITY _ It was a sunny morning, play-by-play radio announcer Sean Kelley recalled. And cold.
Especially for late November. Especially in Oklahoma City.
Kelley and the rest of the staff of the New Orleans Hornets were huddled together, making their way through the Oklahoma City bombing memorial on the north edge of downtown, watching old news footage, gazing at photos of the rubble, walking among empty chairs symbolizing 168 people killed by a truck bomb in April 1995.
Hurricane Katrina had forced the team out of New Orleans. The Hornets landed in another city familiar with tragedy. On this chilly day, they were learning about it.
"There was a somber silence," Kelley said. "We were collectively dealing with what we had gone through (in New Orleans) while learning what they had gone through" 10 years earlier.
It was then that the staff began to understand why the Hornets' presence in Oklahoma City meant so much. It wasn't just the arrival _ however temporary _ of the state's first big league sports team, or the NBA stars staying in downtown hotels, or the ESPN crawl at the bottom of television screens that lumped Oklahoma City with New York and Los Angeles and Detroit.
It was that residents thought no other city, with the exception of New York, could relate to New Orleans quite like they could.
Said Kelley: "As the season has gone on they are not bashful about saying they'd really like us to stay, but _ and they always follow it with but _ `If you guys go back, we understand.' "
Home for now is Oklahoma City, but the NBA will decide by the end of the month where the Hornets will be based next season. Publicly, …