Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The NBA Fixes Games? Say It Ain't So!

Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy's court briefs filed June 10, 2008 allege that NBA executives and certain referees manipulated games in order to foster more ticket sales and revenue. He specifically cites several instances - one of them a 2002 playoff series between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings in which the Lakers were given favorable treatment that ultimately led to them winning game 6 and then the series in 7.

From today's NY Times article by Howard Beck:

"According to Lauro’s letter: 'Tim learned from Referee A that Referees A and F wanted to extend the series to seven games. Tim knew Referees A and F to be "company men," always acting in the interest of the N.B.A., and that night, it was in the N.B.A.’s interest to add another game to the series.' The game was refereed by three tenured veterans, Dick Bavetta, Ted Bernhardt and Bob Delaney.

"The Kings, their fans and many in the news media were outraged by the officiating that night. Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate, weighed in, urging Stern to conduct a review. [The Lakers shot 40 free throws — 27 in the fourth quarter — and beat Sacramento, 106-102. I'm a Lakers fan. I badly wanted them to beat the Kings. I saw that series and I have to say, at the time, it looked to me that the Kings' "was robbed."]

"Stern did not respond to specific allegations but said that the N.B.A. had fully cooperated with the government since last summer.

“'He turned on basically all of his colleagues in an attempt to demonstrate that he is not the only one who engaged in criminal activity,'” Stern said. “'The U.S. attorney’s office, the F.B.I. have fully investigated it, and Mr. Donaghy is the only one who is guilty of a crime.'"

The only one.

Who believes this?

There's only one ref who has been doing improper things.

Just like Lee Harvey Oswald was the only one.

And the soldiers caught on camera torturing Iraqis at Abu Ghaib were just rotten apples, acting on their own.

And the individuals caught in 2000 and 2004 fixing the votes by destroying registration forms for people registering as Democrats in the presidential race were acting alone. And so on.

Yep. They're all acting as individuals, all alone, nobody else.

The league doesn't respond to economic incentives and the gate and TV revenues for extra playoff games and the more storied and bigger market teams aren't an issue and these factors don't play into the picture at all.

Of course not!

* * *

At half time in the game last night between the Lakers and the Boston Celtics, part of the Donaghy story was covered and Commissioner David Stern and ex-Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy, who was fined $100k for his allegations about center Yao Ming being unfairly singled out in the 2005 playoffs between the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks, were interviewed. Van Gundy repeated his 2005 statements in essence, but carefully stated that he didn't want to lend credibility to Donaghy's overall allegations. In other words, what Donaghy alleged in specifics about the 2005 series was true, but Van Gundy, who is now doing color commentary for ABC, didn't want to say that Donaghy's general allegations were true.

I think Van Gundy likes his gig as a commentator.

* * *

I love sports and I love basketball and I am still a Lakers fan (although during the 1980s I was a "bad boys" Pistons' fan - loved their work ethic, their "D," and Dennis Rodman before he started coloring his hair). I love playing the game and I have done some coaching - no big deal, at the Y.

I badly want to see the Celtics beaten. Have always hated them and still do, even now that they've gone from being 80% white during Larry Bird's days (when the rest of the league was 80% black) to being mainly black. I like Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, but there's something about seeing them in Celtic Green. I don't know. They don't look right.

But I have to say, I don't think that the refs are going to favor the Lakers this time.

If you've been watching any playoffs at all, during the early rounds especially, you will have seen one of those incessant Gatorade ads featuring the Celtics' Kevin Garnett. The ad looks like a coronation. And much as I love Bill Russell, I found those conversations between him and KG during the prior rounds hard to take. Russell, among other things, promised KG that if KG didn't win a ring this year, that he'd give him one of his. And this was supposed to make you feel all warm and rosy inside!

In game two of the current finals, the first two fouls called on the Lakers' Kobe Bryant were ridiculous. He had to sit out precious minutes and the game got away from them. The Lakers managed to put on a furious run in the fourth quarter and got within two points, after being down by big double digits, but ended up losing. In last night's game at least one other phantom foul was called on Kobe and he didn't get a number of "and one" foul shots while scoring that he and other Lakers should have. They still won the game and their play, especially that of Odom and Gasol, kinda stunk, with the exception of "the Machine" Sasha and clutch Kobe. But I have to say that the series doesn't have the appeal for me that it should, knowing that the end result seems foregone.

I know, for those of you who are students of the game, the Lakers' play hasn't been that good and the foul shot discrepancy in the first two games, and especially the second game in Boston, is in part due to a lack of aggressiveness by the Lakers.

The Lakers do have to find a solution to guarding Paul Pierce and Gasol has to be aggressive (he showed some signs of this in game two, but reverted back to form in game 3) and Lamar Odom has to stop barging into the lane horizontally and elevate.

But you can't tell me that the calls are not favoring Boston!

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