Clay Bennett always wanted to bring professional basketball to Oklahoma, but the circumstances of this game are likely different than he ever imagined.

The owner of the Seattle SuperSonics will be courtside Wednesday to watch his team play the New Orleans Hornets, who are using Oklahoma City as their home for a second season as the New Orleans area recovers from the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

Bennett originally tried to become a minority owner in the Hornets after helping them temporarily relocate to Oklahoma City from New Orleans. He eventually bought the SuperSonics in July. Bennett admitted there will be some conflicting feelings as he watches the teams play.

"Clearly the Hornets have been very special here, and I've grown to appreciate the players and coaches and know them now personally and like them very much. There's a real connection there, and I support them,'' Bennett said. "At the same time, I certainly am going to support the Sonics. I hope for a good, competitive, enjoyable game.''

Hornets owner George Shinn lauded Bennett - who has been a point man for many athletic events in Oklahoma City - for his efforts in helping the team grow in its temporary home while New Orleans rebuilds.

"Certainly it's a very unusual situation, but one that I would imagine he's looking forward to,'' Shinn said of Wednesday's contest. "Clay has done so much for Oklahoma City, and I believe that he takes great pride every time an NBA game is played here.''

The Hornets (34-40) still have a chance to catch the eighth-place Los Angeles Clippers in the West for their first playoff appearance since 2004. New Orleans is 2 1/2 games behind Los Angeles after a 119-101 victory at Milwaukee on Tuesday in which Tyson Chandler had 18 points and 20 rebounds for his seventh double-double in the last eight games.

"We're understanding what we have to do and now it's just a matter of going out there and putting our minds to it,'' Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "I think we can make this thing very interesting.''

Chandler, who also set a single-season team record for rebounds, is scoring 15.3 points per game in his last eight - well above his season average of 9.5 points.

"We have a great opportunity'' to make a playoff run, Chandler said. "When we get it going, we can be a pretty good team.''

Seattle (30-44) is closer to being eliminated from the playoffs than catching the Clippers, whom they trail by 6 1/2 games with eight remaining. The Sonics are trying to avoid a three-game losing streak after a 110-91 defeat at San Antonio on Tuesday, in which they came no closer than 18 points in the fourth quarter.

"They're a good team, period,'' Sonics forward Rashard Lewis said of the Spurs. "They just show how far ahead they are of us. We've got a lot more learning to do. A lot more improving to do.''

Chris Wilcox scored 20 points and Lewis added 19 for Seattle, which allowed San Antonio to shoot 56 percent from the field and outrebound the Sonics 41-22.

The Sonics won the first two games in this season series, before the Hornets bounced back with a 98-97 victory at New Orleans on Feb. 23. Chandler had 10 offensive rebounds and 19 overall in that matchup.

Sonics guard Ray Allen, who is out for the season after undergoing ankle surgery March 21, had 32 points in that game but also missed a potential game-winning jumper in the final seconds.


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