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NBA COAST TO COAST

Referee Tim Donaghy lacks not just integrity, but credibility too

The disgraced, recently imprisoned former NBA referee's sensational accusations would be more alarming if someone, anyone, had corroborated them, but that hasn't happened.

November 08, 2009|Mark Heisler

The curse that keeps on giving

Tim Donaghy's release from jail prompted another call to investigate NBA referees who, unlike him, haven't been caught taking bribes . . . a week after Donaghy's publisher withdrew his book, citing libel concerns . . . a story that prompted another call to investigate the refs.

A figure as imposing as SI.com's Frank Deford, who reviewed the manuscript for Triumph, wrote, "I don't believe you can read Donaghy's book without harboring doubt about the integrity of the league's officiating."

I come at this from the other direction. After writing several books for Triumph, I was asked if I'd be interested in Donaghy's.

I declined, saying I didn't consider him credible.

As Deford notes, everyone sneered at Jose Canseco, whose book was found to be right on.

That, indeed, is the test . . . but 18 months after Donaghy first made his charges -- while up for sentencing -- no one has corroborated one thing he has said.

There are lots of disaffected former NBA officials -- they're not all retained -- but no one has backed up Donaghy on anything.

That leaves only scattered anecdotes, presented as the tip of an iceberg, rather than some ice cubes floating around.

Dick Bavetta was always a good referee but fellow officials did think he was ingratiating, which is why they gossiped so much about him.

Referees do have feuds and -- say it ain't so -- favor stars.

Actually, Donaghy has half of them seeming to suck up to players, and the other half hating them, leaving only Tim to bet on colleagues' tendencies he knows so well -- but somehow losing so much, he must shave points.

Commissioner David Stern actually does all in his power to defend against the notion the NBA favors stars and big markets, as when he said he hopes LeBron James stays in Cleveland.

Stern doesn't minds certain teams in the Finals, like his joke about the Lakers vs. the Lakers, but he isn't kidding, having repeatedly hammered his hometown Knicks since the '90s, when he enacted new rules to protect Michael Jordan, whose head Pat Riley's players looked like they wanted to mount, like a moose.

Should a Knicks official utter James' name before July 1, it'll cost them $1 million or so, if Stern doesn't disqualify them from signing James, entirely.

Baseball's umpires fumbled the entire postseason. Everyone said "replay," but no one mentioned "credibility."

That's a tired refrain, which the media still reserves for the NBA, with no basis in fact, with the exception, of course, of the martyred Donaghy.

--

Chris Paul, anyone?

With the Hornets sliding, the clock is running on Chris Paul, signed through 2012. Owner George Shinn, who tipped his desperation last season when he tried to give Tyson Chandler away to unload his money, is now dangling 2008 coach of the year Byron Scott, whose contract is running out.

Meanwhile, Paul must endure indignities like Rajon Rondo's snarling "I've got a ring and you're never gonna get one" after they tangled in Boston. How many games would Rondo win in Paul's place: A) 25, B) 15, or C) none?

-- Mark Heisler

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