For the most part, if you watch a lot of NBA games, you can't help but notice that at times the officiating is one sided and at other times it is simply bad. Some players get star treatment, others seem to get fouls called for walking onto the court. Some games are called very one sided where one team can't get a foul call even though players are getting mugged by two players at a time while the other team just has to look crooked and it is a foul. Refs are human and we know that they won't get it right every time, but some calls are so ridiculously bad that you just scratch your head and wonder. One of those calls was when Paul Pierce drew a foul while shooting a 3 during the Detroit series. Bennett Salvatore called it an offensive foul. He could have made a case for a possible travel, although that was a stretch, but an offensive foul was ridiculous. David Stern has defended his officials ad nauseam, fining anyone who dares to question them.
Last summer, the inevitable happened and a referee was accused of betting on games and influencing the outcomes of certain games. David Stern said that he completely investigated the officials and that Donaghy was a lone rogue official. There were no other refs involved. Supposedly it was all over and when Donaghy was convicted and punished, there would be no further repercussions from the rogue referee who acted in a vacuum to influence games for betting purposes.
Then, during the NBA Finals this year, there were more allegations. In the wake of game 2 of the Finals, when Phil Jackson pretty much blamed the loss on the referees, and in the wake of the league acknowledgment that the Lakers/Spurs game 4 was decided by a bad call by the refs, Time Donaghy made some shocking statements.
In a letter to the court, Donaghy's attorney relayed key information Donaghy provided, including various examples of improper interactions and relationships between referees and other league employees, such as players, coaches or management that led to attempts to influence game results. Donaghy alleged that certain referees were "company men" who acted in the best business interests of the NBA - specifically, extending popular and profitable series. He claimed manipulation of games could be very subtle.
According to the letter, "Tim explained that league officials would tell referees they should withhold calling technical fouls on certain star players because doing so hurt ticket sales and television ratings . . . If the NBA wanted a team to succeed, league officials would inform referees that opposing players were getting away with violations. Referees then would call fouls on certain players, frequently resulting in victory for the opposing team."
Donaghy's letter described events in a 2005 playoff series - apparently between the Mavericks and Rockets - when referees were told to enforce screening rules more strictly against a Houston player. The Mavericks came back to win the series, and the court filing asserted that the NBA profited from a longer series. Donaghy also told investigators that referees were instructed to extend a 2002 playoff series between the Lakers and Kings to seven games and did so by making calls in favor of Los Angeles, which came back to win. The series is remembered for controversial calls in Game 6, in which Sacramento's Scot Pollard and Vlade Divac fouled out.
The Kings/Lakers game was particularly interesting because at the time, Jeff Van Gundy was fined a ridiculous $100,000 for saying that an official not working the game told him that Yao was being targeted with fouls in particular. The game was called very one sided and there were several other complaints about it.
Stern dismissed the allegations and as always backed his referees. But what else can he do? The allegations fall right at his feet. If league officials did tell the officials to extend a series or favor or target particular players, Stern would have to have know about them or even been the one to send down the orders. If the FBI does investigate Donaghy's allegations further, David Stern could be in some trouble himself.
Now, once again, more information is coming out that further implicates another referee. Donaghy placed 134 calls to referee Scott Foster between October 2006 and April 2007, the period during which he has confessed to betting on games or passing on game information to gamblers. Most of the calls lasted no more than 2 minutes. Now, keep in mind that David Stern supposedly completely investigated every other referee and found nothing out of order. But Stern was intent on saving his own skin and proving that Donaghy was a rogue ref and couldn't be bothered with details like 134 phone calls from the rogue ref to a colleague before games he officiated.
Pregame.com has some interesting commentary on the the games that Foster offiated during this period.
During the 2006-07 period under investigation, seven games refereed by Scott Foster had lopsided enough betting on one team to move the point spread by at least 2 points; those seven teams were undefeated against Vegas meaning that the big-money gamblers won a 7 of 7 times on Fosters games; the odds of that happening randomly are less than 1%.Statistics alone cannot convict, but its certainly noteworthy that seven times in Fosters games one team was bet extremely heavily, and all seven times that team won, said RJ Bell of Pregame.com.
Two of those seven games stand out: On January 19, 2007 the Kings opened as a 1.5 favorites at Boston; betting on Sacramento moved the line to -4.5. Kings won by 5, shooting 25 free throws, versus only 14 free throws for the home team Celtics. On March 20, 2007 the Nuggets opened as 2.5 point underdogs at New Jersey. Denver was bet so heavily, they closed as 1 point favorites. Denver won by 4, shooting 32 free throws versus only 22 for the home team Nets.
In prior reporting widely carried by the national media, RJ Bell of Pregame.com uncovered that big-money bettors won 15 straight lopsidedly bet games refereed by Tim Donaghy during the 2006-2007 season.
First, Tim Donaghy was arrested for betting on games and influencing their outcome. Then, there were the allegations of the league handing down directives to officials to stretch out series or makes calls with an agenda. Now, there is evidence that another referee was involved in influencing games along with Donaghy. Facts seem to back the allegations that other refs were involved and that refs have influenced games. All of this with assurances from David Stern that all is well and his referees are above approach. When all of this is taken all together, it certainly doesn't look good for the commissioner.