x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Making the right call in the NBA

A former referee suggests the NBA encourage officials to prolong play-offs. Gregory Dole reports/

Tim Donaghy, left, during his time as an NBA referee.
Tim Donaghy, left, during his time as an NBA referee.

Tim Donaghy, the former NBA referee who went to prison in 2008 for having gambled on NBA games, has not allowed his name to fade into obscurity. Now a counsellor to gambling addicts at the Mike Osborne First Step clinic in New Jersey, Donaghy has written a book entitled Personal Foul. The book suggests that the NBA instructs referees on how they should ply their trade. With the NBA play-offs in full swing, Donaghy hit the talk radio circuit this past week to explain his contention.

"The morning before play-off games, we referees would meet with an NBA representative," recalls Donaghy. "This person would screen a DVD with examples of fouls that the NBA head office wanted us to call that night. This NBA representative then graded us during the game on whether we followed their instructions and how we refereed the game in general. "Many times, we walked out of the meetings saying the league clearly wanted one side to win."

According to Donaghy, significant money was at stake on the prolonging of the play-offs. "The NBA wants to extend the playoff series to increase television and advertising revenues," he suggests. The former referee implies that he and his colleagues were financially motivated to carry out the NBA's edicts. "If we referees received good grades from the NBA representative at the game, we would be promoted to work in the next round. In my time, the bonus started at US$20,000 (Dh73,460) for the first round of play-offs and increased to $85,000 for the Finals," Donaghy states.

"The classic example of what I am talking about was referee Dick Bavetta in the 2003 Sacramento-Los Angeles series. Bavetta robbed Sacramento of victory in Game 6 and the NBA publicly blasted Bavetta for his terrible performance yet promoted Bavetta to referee the 2003 Finals. Explain the logic. "Bavetta did a bad job yet received an $85,000 bonus. He must have done something right." While Donaghy's past behaviour has deprived him of credibility, his theories are worth considering while watching the play-offs. In Game 5 between Boston and Orlando, Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics' defensive stalwart, was given two very questionable technical fouls. Within hours, the NBA rescinded one of the calls, however, the damage was done. Orlando had won the game and prolonged the series.