City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

April 18, 2011
With Clay Bennett in charge, are Kings fans doomed?

He's reviled in Seattle, beloved by hoops fans on the Great Plains. But what will Clay Bennett's legacy be in Sacramento?

Bennett, the owner of the Oklahoma City Thunder, is chairing the NBA's relocation committee as it explores which city is the best fit for the Kings - Anaheim or Sacramento. Bennett and other NBA officials are expected in California later this week to see whether Anaheim's proposal for the team needs more work and whether Sacramento's recent efforts are enough to keep the team here.

Many Kings fans are inevitably shrieking at Bennett's role in this. After all, he moved the Seattle Sonics to Oklahoma City just three years ago, a move many fans in the Pacific Northwest still consider a case of larceny.

Seattle sportswriters were quick to pounce on Bennett's involvement in the Kings' future. Here's what Gerry Spratt of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer website had to say over the weekend:

"Understand this, Sacramento fans: It's called the relocation committee, because that's what it does. It relocates NBA teams. And Clay Bennett is (NBA Commissioner) David Stern's undertaker."

And Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times had this to say: "Some jokes are their own punchline. And you could use any number of words to describe the last man to relocate an NBA franchise now overseeing the very same process that could occur in Sacramento. It is galling if you're a Kings fan, problematic if you're an NBA fan and it's laughably predictable for Sonics fans. After all, gallows humor is about all we're left with when it comes to the NBA."

The other side would argue that Bennett just knows more about these situations than anyone else, being the owner who most recently moved an NBA franchise. Bennett said he moved the Sonics because their arena was outdated and repeated attempts to replace it failed (Sonics fans would say the city was duped when they were told an Oklahoma businessman intended to keep the team in Seattle).

Stern, who has had a close personal relationship with Bennett, tells the AP there isn't a conflict in Bennett running this exploration. In fact, Stern says Bennett's background "might help" and that Bennett merely favors "what's best for the league and the Kings."

Bennett's scheduled is still being finalized. While in Sacramento, he's expected to check out the downtown railyard site that would be the future location of a new arena, meet with Mayor Kevin Johnson and dive deeper into the business community's $7 million commitment to sponsorships and ticket purchases for an NBA team here.

So Kings fans, does Bennett's role worry you? Or does it not a matter who's running this?

ClayBennett.jpg

Oklahoma City Thunder and NBA relocation committee chair Clay Bennett

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at rlillis@sacbee.com

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