The general line from Doc Rivers – and the rest of the NBA for that matter– when it comes to Tim Donaghy is that he’s a liar and a felon and why should anyone believe a lying felon.
The league has tried its best to change his name to Disgraced Referee, probably justly. Knowing the whistle-blower would be on “60 Minutes” Sunday night to pump up his new book and also explain himself for the first time since being released from prison in early November, the NBA, which refused to take part in the “60 Minutes” report, prepared a statement.
The league’s top priority was reminding everyone how scummy Donaghy is, throwing around phrases like “prison term,” “wire fraud,” and “conspiracy to transmit betting information.”
Rapsheet notwithstanding, Donaghy’s segment was sort of provocative, which was the point.
The most interesting nugget might have been that he didn’t use his whistle to change the outcome of games. Instead, he used the league’s biases and officials’ grudges to help him make sound betting decisions, and he was right on 70 to 80 percent of his bets.
Let’s start with the grudges. “60 Minutes” explored a bet Donaghy made against the Nuggets Jan. 6, 2007, knowing the refs were targeting Allen Iverson.
“He had threatened one of our officials and the NBA fined him $25,000 and we felt as a group that he should have been suspended. Because he wasn’t we felt like we would teach him a lesson.
In the pregame meetings we came to the conclusion that we were not going to give Allen Iverson any marginal plays to the basket.
As reporter Bob Simon put it, "the refs quickly called curious fouls on Iverson, including rarely-called fouls for palming. It threw his game off and his team lost."
Then the NBA bias.
The Lakers sent in a CD of 25 plays that they felt calls were missed when Kobe Bryant went to the basket. And I understood from the NBA office that 22 of those plays were missed by the referees. And I knew that Kobe Bryant was basically going to be given the opportunity to go to the foul line if somebody so much as breathed on him.
Of course, teams send in tapes to the league all the time for review. Donaghy says that the way the league responded to those tapes helped him bet.
Obviously, there’s a Rasheed Wallace reference coming.
Wallace essentially considers it a given that referees target him. He’s up to eight technical fouls, and he’s pretty much guaranteed to hit the suspension ceiling pretty soon, even though one of the techs he drew was literally for yelling “And 1” at a ref after he thought he was fouled.
He also called out the NBA for showing special love to its “Basketball without Borders kids.” And even if it was kind of funny – come on, you’ve seen the commercials – it cost Wallace $30,000.
The part about refs holding grudges against players rings out mostly because of something Doc Rivers said about Kendrick Perkins, who has five techs this season. Rivers said he gets on Perkins “because he’s still young and gaining a reputation. He has a chance to stop it before it starts.’’ If you can believe a shred of what Donaghy says – meaning you can get past, you know, the “prison sentence,” “wire fraud” and ““conspiracy to transmit betting information” – then it’s advice that’s well worth considering.
As far as Donaghy and the NBA, David Stern’s statement reads:
“In an interview aired on ‘60 Minutes,’ Tim Donaghy repeated his allegations against his former colleagues, NBA referees, as well as the NBA. Those allegations have been fully investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the government completed its investigation, finding that the only criminal conduct was that of Mr. Donaghy.
“In addition, the NBA appointed Lawrence B. Pedowitz, a former Chief of the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York to lead a comprehensive independent review of the NBA’s officiating program.
“Mr. Pedowitz’ review revealed that the NBA’s core values of neutrality and accountability were not compromised by anyone other than Mr. Donaghy. All allegations with respect to the integrity of the NBA’s officiating program will continue to be referred to Mr. Pedowitz for his review.”
Of course, the league could only discredit Donaghy so much. "60 Minutes" pointed out that in an FBI report, the league said even though he might have bet on games, "It seems plausible to us that Donaghy may not have manipulated games. We are unable to contradict the government’s conclusion.”