PHOENIX — Anaheim's last-minute bid for a professional basketball team was described here Monday as a long shot amid doubts among National Basketball Assn. officials about whether a third team could survive in the Southland.
But that didn't dampen the spirits of Nick Mileti and a determined group of developers as they presented their plan to the NBA to bring an expansion team to Orange County.
Twenty-two owners of the NBA's 23 teams (Chicago was not represented) met at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel and listened to representatives of six cities make half-hour presentations for expansion teams.
Cities competing against Anaheim are Charlotte, N.C.; Toronto; Minneapolis; Miami and Orlando, Fla.
Some team owners and observers said that Anaheim's bid, presented by Mileti, former Cleveland Cavaliers owner, and four Orange County developers, was so new that they were unaware of the details until the presentation.
Developers Al Durkovic, Robert Osbrink, Don Oliphant and Ronald McMahon announced their plans for a 20,000-seat arena in Anaheim only last Friday, after having negotiated unsuccessfully for two sites in neighboring Santa Ana since July, 1985.
The developers proposed to build the multipurpose arena at the northeast corner of Orangewood Avenue and State College Boulevard, near Anaheim Stadium.
There appeared to be confusion over the previous application for a Santa Ana-based franchise, because some people still were talking about "the Santa Ana" application Monday.
"I'm just not familiar with what Santa Ana has done," said Lewis Schaffel, former general manager of three NBA teams and the man who would be chief operating officer of a proposed Miami franchise.
"That (Anaheim proposal) is a hard one to read," said Pat Williams, former general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, who would be a partner in an Orlando team. "They've been a mystery; there's been very little information. There hasn't even been anyone to talk to."
Williams said he believes the league would see Florida, which has no professional basketball team, as a better area than Anaheim because Southern California already has the Lakers and Clippers.
Williams added that the Clippers would probably fare better if they moved from the Sports Arena to Orange County. "I personally would say that, operating in Anaheim, you could have much greater success," he said.
But some team owners and NBA officials have expressed concern that the Los Angeles area couldn't support a third team, according to sources close to the NBA board of governors who asked not to be identified.
Clipper owner Donald Sterling, who rarely speaks to the media, declined to say whether he'd be interested in moving to Anaheim. "I haven't heard anything about that," he said.
The Clippers, Mileti noted, are not for sale. But he said he wouldn't be interested anyway because of a pending lawsuit filed by the NBA over the team's move from San Diego.
Mileti, who owned the Cleveland team from 1970 to 1980, said he believes that the owners will meet today to "decide whether to expand but (will) not name a team."
At the end of Monday's meeting, NBA Commissioner David Stern said he doubts that the owners will select any of the cities today. "That's not the focus right now," he said. "We're grappling with a much more preliminary issue." That issue, he said, was whether to approve an expansion team at all.
Laker owner Jerry Buss said he believes that a committee probably will be formed to evaluate each city before a decision is made. "It's a very big decision and not something you decide in a few hours," he said. "You think how long it takes you to buy a house."
The Orange County delegation chose to go last in Monday's order of presentation. Mileti said he felt that could help them leave a lasting impression with the owners. Unlike the other five candidates, Mileti did not make a speech after the presentation and about half of the reporters covering the expansion proposals chose not to sit in on his appearance. The press room was jammed with reporters for the five previous presentations.
Despite the lack of interest and the doubts expressed by other applicants, Mileti, Durkovic and a four-person delegation from the city of Anaheim remained optimistic.
"I think the one thing we have in Anaheim is the experience and knowledge of our city," Durkovic said. "That's a great strength to have."
Durkovic added that the other teams' advance season ticket sales--Williams said 14,312 have deposited money in Orlando--won't give those cities an advantage over Anaheim. The enthusiastic response to the Angels and the Rams is proof of Orange County's support for professional sports, he said.
"We're not behind in that respect," Durkovic said.
Anaheim Mayor Don Roth was more outspoken in his comments. "Clearheaded, intelligent people will select Orange County," he said.