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Stern to face questions about referee's gambling

July 24, 2007|From the Associated Press

NEW YORK — David Stern reacted harshly five months ago when he was asked about point shaving in the NBA.

The commissioner can't dismiss it anymore.

With his league facing its biggest scandal, Stern plans to hold a news conference this morning. The first question he must answer is what, and when, the league knew of former referee Tim Donaghy's gambling habits.

Donaghy officiated the last game of his 13-year NBA career during the San Antonio-Phoenix second-round series. Stern surely will be asked whether the league could, or should, have known of Donaghy's problems by then.

The FBI is investigating Donaghy for allegedly betting on games he officiated during the last two seasons. He is expected to turn himself in at U.S. District Court in Brooklyn this week or early next week, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Authorities are examining whether the referee made calls to affect the point spread in games on which he or associates had wagered thousands of dollars over the last two seasons, according to a law enforcement official. The referee had a gambling problem and was approached by low-level mob associates through an acquaintance, the official said.

Another person with knowledge of the FBI investigation told the Associated Press the league was unaware of the inquiry until after the NBA Finals. But the Denver Post reported Sunday that the NBA was made aware of the probe in January.

According to RJ Bell, president of the sports betting website Pregame.com, in games where the spread moved at least 1 1/2 points, the team getting the big action covered in 10 consecutive games officiated by Donaghy from January through April of this year. The odds of that, he said, were 1,024 to 1.

Donaghy is the only referee, at this point, under investigation, a law enforcement official said.

Over the weekend, police staked out Donaghy's home in Bradenton, Fla., after he received two telephone threats. Both calls seemed to come from the same unidentified caller, Manatee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Randy Warren said.

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