NBA Refutes Tim Donaghy's Claim That Referees Bet on Blazers-Rockets Game 1

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 23, 2014

** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, OCT. 20-21 ** FILE ** NBA official Tim Donaghy talks with another official during a timeout during a Washington Wizards New Jersey Nets basketball game, in this April 10, 2007 file photo, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, file)
Haraz N. Ghanbari

Former NBA commissioner David Stern quickly swept the Tim Donaghy gambling scandal under the rug in 2007, but the disgraced former referee forced the league to acknowledge him again on Wednesday.

Donaghy made some damning allegations in a comment on the Facebook wall of CSN's Dwight Jaymes, calling out officials for their efforts in Game 1 of the first-round series between the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers:

It seemed like (Scott) Foster had money on Portland and (Bennett) Salvatore had money on Houston....Both were killing the other team....Look for several fouls on illegal screens to be called early and often in Game 2... Several calls were missed on both ends on the floor and will be noted in the film for the game 2 officials.

That game sparked controversy when Dwight Howard earned a dubious sixth foul, a call the NBA later admitted was incorrect in an official release.

The league didn't have to say anything about the call, but transparency is a big buzzword these days. So the NBA fessed up, perhaps because many viewers who saw the crucial late-game call voiced their disagreement.

Donaghy didn't stop with the Rockets-Blazers game, though. He also told a Canadian radio station the Toronto Raptors were facing a fix as well (via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News): 

(The Raptors) are not only going against the Brooklyn Nets but going against the league office. They have a very talented team and have to be that much better than the Brooklyn Nets.

In this situation, Brooklyn would be put at an advantage. A Brooklyn-Miami matchup (in Round 2) would bring great ratings and that's what this is all about for the NBA and the league offices—bringing in as many dollars as they can.

The NBA fired back at the disgraced referee quickly, issuing an official statement refuting his claims and calling his credibility into question. League spokesman Mike Bass said (via Bondy):

Tim Donaghy is a convicted felon looking for any opportunity for people to listen to his baseless allegations. For Mr. Donaghy to continually try to challenge his former colleagues’ ethics is distasteful and says more about his own integrity than it could ever say about our referees, who are the best and most scrutinized game officials in the world

It's no surprise the NBA shot back at Donaghy so forcefully. Everyone likes to joke about fixed games and vague preferences for big-market teams. It's a common refrain for angry fans, and, as unrealistic as widespread hidden agendas might seem, the topic has a way of coming up often.

The league won't stand for it.

Donaghy clearly just wants to remain relevant. And it should go without saying that his own morality automatically casts a dubious cloud over anything he says about the league that booted him. Remember, this guy is a convicted felon after all. That makes anything he says subject to impeachment, both legally and in the court of public opinion.

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 7:  Referee Tim Donaghy looks on before the Golden State Warriors game against the Phoenix Suns at The Arena in Oakland on December 7, 2005 in Oakland, California.  The Suns won 118-110.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges an
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Looking forward, expect the NBA to continue its transparency initiative more strongly than ever. Fans whose teams are on the wrong end of missed calls may never accept the league's admissions of fault, but it's indisputably a good thing for the game's integrity when the NBA owns up to its mistakes.

Referees are going to screw up; it's a tough job, and perfection is basically impossible. Let's hope Donaghy's attempts to capitalize on that reality don't steer the conversation toward him and away from the game.