Disgraced ref's credibility just goes lower and lower

Why does anyone listen to anything Tim Donaghy says

November 10, 2009|By Mark Heisler On the NBA

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 Books, 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 would 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 a lot 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 him to bet on colleagues' tendencies he knows so well - but somehow losing so much, he must shave points.

Playing favorites? 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 mind 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 PatRiley'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 press still reserves for the NBA, with no basis in fact, with the exception 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, now is dangling 2008 Coach of the Year Byron Scott, whose contract is running out.

Meanwhile, Paul must endure indignities like Rajon Rondo snarling, "I have a ring and you're never going to get one" after they tangled in Boston.

How many games would Rondo win in Paul's place: A) 25, B) 15, or C) none?

James makes everything better: With the Cavs in for New York's annual Drool-Over-LeBron Night on Friday, James said he wouldn't eliminate the terrible Knicks, or the infamous Clippers, since whoever gets him will have him.

Knicks players, most of whom would be waived, had a ball. Larry Hughes: "Like on the plane, if we have a bad meal, we'll say, 'Hey, the meal would be better if 'Bron was here.' "

Quotable: Celtics spokesman Jeff Twiss to the press after the Rondo-Paul incident: "Rajon has requested you not ask anything about Chris Paul now, tomorrow, or any other time."

The Celtics' Glen Davis, explaining how he broke his thumb in a fight with the driver of their moving car: "It was …" GM Danny Ainge, finishing his sentence for him: "Stupid."

The Magic's Dwight Howard, on getting three technical fouls in his first five games: "I think when I'm frustrated out there, the refs feed off that. They know that they can get me going."

Spurs guard George Hill, to the San Antonio Express-News, on coach Gregg Popovich's high regard for him: "TD (Tim Duncan) tells me Pop's favorite player used to be Rasho Nesterovic and he's no longer here, so favorite player sort of rolls off my back …"

Warriors rookie Stephen Curry, on their soft early home schedule: "Once you go East, you're playing against good teams and loud crowds. You don't want to try to turn your season around out there."

The Spurs' Manu Ginobili, denounced by PETA and obliged to take rabies shots after killing a bat flying around the arena: "Don't do this at home. Don't handle bats, don't slap them, don't do anything - or raccoons - because you're going to end up like me."

mheisler@tribune.com

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