OKC Thunder owner Clay Bennett: The champion of the small market

OKC Thunder owner Clay Bennett championed small markets in the BOG conference call reinforcing how lucky the franchise is he is at the helm.

On Thursday this week, the Board of Governors will vote on the format NBA Commissioner Adam Silver presents. It’s a given regardless of the option he decides on that the vote will be definitive as the Commish has the full support from the owners. TI noted the preferred option which also happens to be what’s best for the OKC Thunder given only two real options are being considered.

In today’s feature, TI looked at those two scenarios with a view of what would be more conducive for the OKC Thunder. The reason only two options are on the table was also explained in this article.

To that end, the first of the four options that dropped from consideration was the full complement of 30 teams and a resumption of the season with a play-in tournament. Again, as outlined in our article this wasn’t a wise bet given it expanded the sheer number of people who would be in the bubble or campus setting and increase the number of tests required. The costs and logistics made it the least likely option of the four.

The issue, of course, is by not being involved in the return between ten and eight teams will be off the hardwood from March 11th until the season starts next year likely around Christmas. That’s nine and a half months.

OKC Thunder owner Clay Bennet leads the small market charge:

Most of the details from the Friday conference call focused on the season start and the format preference of 20 or 22 teams.

News today via the ESPN article from Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe offered more insight into the discussions with the BOG. Specifically, the groups discussion on small markets and how the exclusion of all the teams can hurt those markets. OKC Thunder owner Clay Bennett took the lead in laying the foundation for bringing back all 30 teams.

Near the end of the NBA’s board of governors call on Friday, Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett delivered an impassioned soliloquy on why the league and owners needed to consider the competitive and financial plights of smaller-market teams that could be left out of the season’s summer resumption in Orlando — and the potential symbolic power of all 30 teams gathering there to play as one united association.

Bennett noted the teams not present will suffer because they can’t continue to develop their younger players via playing games against their counterparts. The other high points mentioned were the inability to cultivate sponsors and garner ticket sales without games.

At the same time, it’s understandable why the association wouldn’t want to bring back all 30 teams to play a handful of games. Or have to expose those players and the other teams to further risk. Not to mention the cost to have them all on-site and the additional tests that would be required.

Silver also noted several players weren’t as invested in returning presumably from these teams who have no additional incentive. This is why it’s fair the owners of the eight teams (I’m assuming the 22 game format is the one the league will elect to use) are worried about being away from their team for that long of a period.

Wojnarowski and Lowe noted – to offset this problem the potential for mandatory summer training camps could be implemented. Additionally, the league and CBA will discuss regional fall leagues. The article cited that would include four to five teams but presumably, it would include all the teams not participating in Orlando.

Some of the owners who backed Bennett included the 76ers Josh Harris and the Suns Robert Sarver. That’s not surprising given the Suns’ long absence from the postseason and the very recent memory for Philly of ‘the process’.

On the back end of Friday’s owners meeting with Silver, several owners — including Philadelphia’s Josh Harris and Phoenix’s Robert Sarver — enthusiastically backed Bennett’s call for the league to come together for as many teams as possible. Silver stated

It’s funny that most NBA fans don’t consider OKC a small market. Much of that is directly related to how competitive the Thunder have been through their tenure in the association. The club has been to the playoffs in all but two seasons and one of those was tied to injury.

In a league where superstars sell tickets the Thunder have always had at least one on the club, often two and even after trading two superstars away had an All-Star (Chris Paul) and rising potential All-Star (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) on this iteration of the Thunder.

A common discussion at Thunderous Intentions among the team is how unusual it is for the franchise to have been so successful. While some fans salivate over the concept of blowing things up and tanking it’s not as desirable as it sounds. If you doubt that, just ask the Timberwolves, Suns or Hornets what it feels like to be in what feels like a constant rebuild.

Oklahoma City has benefitted by their brain trust via smart trades and strong draft picks. It could be argued they’ve missed the mark on some of those too. But if the Thunder suddenly found themselves in a situation of being a perennial lottery team the already difficult task of getting superstars or top-level free agents to sign with OKC would become even more difficult.

As a Thunder fan, the fact that Clay Bennett would champion the small market in spite of his team’s repeated competitive excellence speaks to the quality of ownership and front office.

Ultimately, it’s encouraging the BOG seems very committed as a unit to make sure the entire group succeeds and stays united.

With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley and Luguentz Dort forming a solid foundation and all those draft picks in hand, the future isn’t something Bennett necessarily should be worried about.

So, the fact the champion of that discussion was Clay Bennett should have every OKC Thunder fan smiling. Hey, when there are owners like James Dolan around it’s nice to know someone like Bennett has his team and community’s best interest in mind.

Next: 5 ‘Last Dance’ lessons Thunder can use to build title team