Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Tim Donaghy Mess

If you don't listen to sports talk radio, or you don't care to peruse the blogosphere on an hourly basis, then perhaps you haven't heard about the latest "bombshell" from Tim Donaghy. In public court papers filed Tuesday by his attorney John F. Lauro (and I prefer to believe that the F stands for fuckin'), Donaghy claims that other NBA officials conspired to affect the outcome of two playoff games, one in 2002 and the other in 2005. Based upon the details given in the filings (which don't include team names), it has been widely reported that the 2002 series mentioned refers to the Western Conference finals that year between the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers and, more specifically, game six of that series. The other was the 2005 series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Houston Rockets.

Where's the proof? Where's the evidence that this is anything but a criminal who is now carrying on a personal grudge match with the NBA? Articles across the globe describe Donaghy's allegations similar to the following:

Donaghy also told the FBI that a couple of referees appeared to cook up foul calls in a 2002 NBA playoff game in order to have the series go a seventh game. The only seven-game series in the entire 2002 playoffs was between the Lakers and Kings in the Western Conference finals. The Lakers won Games 6 and 7 to advance to the NBA Finals.

Huh? They "appeared" to screw Sacramento in order to benefit the NBA, because they were "company men" who seemingly decided on their own that the NBA would benefit from a seven-game series?

Lakers coach Phil Jackson was asked about Donaghy's allegations before last night's game three, and he had an interesting response:

"The allegation was that they were extending the series?" said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, answering questions about Donaghy less than two hours before the biggest night of his season. "Was that after the fifth game, after we had the game stolen away from us after a bad call out of bounds and gave the ball back to Sacramento and they made a three-point shot? There's a lot of things going on in these games and they're suspicious, but I don't want to throw it back to there."

Sorry, folks, but I'm calling bullshit on this one. From what I heard on the radio this morning, you would have thought Donaghy had laid out in specific detail exactly which officials were the conspirators, who at the league office told them to fix the game, and exactly how they did it. Instead, we're left with Donaghy's opinion on what happened. Nothing more, nothing less. But, thanks to dandy fops like Mike Greenberg on ESPN's Mike & Mike show, this is being blown completely out of proportion. Greenberg took the time to read the entire complaint letter sent to David Stern by none other than Ralph Nader. Yeah, Nader is exactly who I want to get my basketball knowledge from. Talking heads like Greenburg need to take a long, deep breath, realize the insanity of the situation, and just move on to something else.

Another article quoted the letter as saying "league officials would inform referees that opposing players were getting away with violations," and so then the refs would call the violations on those players. OH NO! That means that the refs were told they had made mistakes and then they rectified them?? Oh, the humanity! They called fouls that were supposed to be fouls? Get 60 Minutes on the phone and tell them we've got a hot one, folks. I can see the headline now: "Sun Rises in East; America Stunned."

Don't believe me, eh? Let's take a look at game six from the 2002 Western Conference finals, shall we? L.A. shot 21-of-27 in that fourth quarter to only 7-of-9 for the Kings. Six of L.A.'s free throws, however, came in the last twenty seconds as Sacramento looked to extend the game by fouling. L.A. was five-of-six in that stretch, so take those free throws out of the equation and you have L.A. going 16-of-21 in the quarter. So, instead of an 18 shot disparity, it's down to 12.

Now, of the remaining free throws shot by L.A., Shaquille O'Neal shot ten of them. The Lakers were focusing on pouring the ball into Shaq almost every time down the court in that fourth quarter, and as a result, Shaq was very active and was able to get to the line. He went 6-of-10 from the line. Plus, Lawrence Funderburke was guarding Shaq for a large portion of the fourth quarter and picked up several fouls; he's not exactly the defensive stalwart, you know? And, don't forget about all the talk back then about how hard it was to officiate the games Shaq played in; from game to game, it seemed to change what was and wasn't a foul just due to O'Neal's sheer size. Add into that Vlade Divac's hall of fame flopping status (video here) and those ten free throws by Shaq look downright normal.

That leaves 11 free throws remaining. Kobe Bryant took three of them, Robert Horry and Devean George each took two apiece and Rick Fox took four. Two of Fox's free throws came after he was fouled making a defensive rebound, and frankly, the nine free throws remaining don't amount to a grand conspiracy to fix a game. The Lakers worked the ball into Shaq early in the quarter and, when he was fouled, those fouls ultimately added up and put Sacramento in the penalty. So, from there on out, any fouls they committed (save offensive) put the Lakers at the line. It didn't work out for them like it didn't work out for many teams in that '00-'02 run for the Lakers: Sacramento simply had no answer for Shaq.

Also, if this was really some sort of conspiracy, why in the world would the refs call a shooting foul on superstar Shaq for fouling Lawrence Freakin' Funderburke with 2:06 left in the game and L.A. only up by one? Or on Derek Fisher with 1:27 to go and the Lakers up three? Or, for pete's sake, Rick Fox with twenty seconds left and L.A. up by three?

There was no conspiracy. I just don't believe it. Tim Donagahy is a criminal. And not just a criminal; he's a degenerate gambler, and frankly, that to me says plenty about his character and his honesty. Gamblers who get in over their head and start perverting the rules and regulations of their jobs to satisfy their gambling debts are garbage and would probably sell their own mother to get out of trouble. This whole sentiment that "oh, he could get in MORE trouble if he doesn't tell the truth" crap is ridiculous. The ONLY reason this has come to light is because the NBA attempted to collect $1M from Donaghy (in a private court filing) to pay for the investigation it had to do into Donaghy. Donaghy's attorney got mad and used the legal system to try to settle a grudge. Donaghy has already told investigators his allegations and they've ostensibly been looked in to. We would have never heard about it had Donaghy's (or his attorney's) pride and arrogance not gotten in the way.

Mr. Donaghy, should you read this, please just do us all a favor and accept your punishment like a man and leave us be.

Chicago Tribune: Ex-ref Tim Donaghy Details NBA Improprieties
ABC News: Shamed Ref: NBA Playoffs Were Rigged

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