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From One Bumpy Ride To Another

Since things have quieted some on the Tim Donaghy front (thank goodness) and I missed yesterday's chat working on today's story, I decided to check in for a second because I haven't had time to blog recently.

I was on vacation last week in Costa Rica and I found out about the officiating scandal Friday night in my hotel room, watching CNN (one of the few English channels on my TV). My initial reaction was, "Oh my goodness, this is the biggest story since I started covering the league and I'm not there." I also wondered about the damage this scandal will have on the NBA.

Not that it ruined my vacation - I still had fun the next day - but it let me know that I had a whole lot in store when I returned to D.C. on Monday. I must say the past few days have been pretty grueling, chasing a story that is being drilled to death right now - but it still isn't getting as much attention as Michael Vick.

But the reaction to this case - the "Sky Is Falling" cries from media pundits that this will forever ruin the league and scare away casual fans for good - made me think back to my horrific flight back from San Jose, which was the scariest plane ride of my life. And, I fly all the time.

It started innocently enough when the pilot said, "This should be a smooth ride back. We don't expect to see any turbulence." Ten minutes later, the plane started rocking and shaking. I looked at my wife and said, "Smooth ride, huh?" She said, "I don't know what his definition of smooth is, but this isn't mine." We thought we had survived the bumpy portion of our trip, but it got worse about 20 minutes later.

All of the sudden, the plane made a roller-coaster worthy dip that made me feel like my intestines had moved up to my throat. You could hear a chorus of moans from all over the plane, then it really got frightening: the plane was pointed down and we continued to sink at an alarming rate. A woman behind me began to scream repeatedly, "Oh! Oh! Oh!" She held her hand against her heart, Fred Sanford style, as the people beside her tried to calm her down. I just knew she was having a heart attack.

I looked at my wife, like, "So, this is how it ends?"

Little did I know that she was holding a glass of orange juice in her hand - and I suddenly got a lesson in gravity. As the plane made another steep decline, the orange juice shot from her cup and splashed against the ceiling of the plane and sprinkled onto us, like orange raindrops. I took several deep breaths to calm by racing heart. The woman behind me continued to look like she was having the big one.

Eventually, the pilot righted the plane. Once it settled, the pilot said, "Sorry, folks. We just hit a bad patch. We didn't see it on our radar. We apologize."

What does this have to do with the Donaghy situation? Well, this is just another unexpected and turbulent situation. The NBA is chartering through a very serious and dangerous patch. It will be difficult to navigate, some aspects of it may be frightening, but the league will survive.

A major reason why the league will be okay in the long run, is that none of its television partners bailed. When that happens, and the billion dollar contracts get ripped up, look out. But until then, this will hang over the league for awhile - at least until the legal situation involving Donaghy is resolved, and the NBA possibly makes wholesale changes in the way in which it reviews referees or establishes a better security system to investigate its employees.

The bottom line is, the NBA is the best, most entertaining and exciting basketball league in the world. Trust me, I've been to Europe and I've watched the major leagues there to know that the product doesn't get better than it does here in the United States. And, if you are a hoops junkie, where else are you going to get your fix?

I'm not trying to diminish the impact of an allegedly crooked official betting on games and possibly conspiring with gamblers to fix the results. It truly is the worst nightmare for a legitimate sports league. If fans cannot believe that the results are real, then you basically have pro wrestling.

This truly is an unfortunate situation. But I'm not ready to join the Chicken Little crew right now - especially if Donaghy truly is a "rogue, isolated criminal," as Commissioner David Stern said. You toss out the bad apple and move on. Even if other officials are involved, which could be a possibility, you can toss out the bad apples and move on.

This may actually be good for the NBA, because now it can address an issue that fans, coaches, executives and players have been complaining about for years: shoddy officiating. People have and always will complain about referees and Stern has taken huge steps to protect them over the years, but maybe the NBA can take some steps to be more open and transparent about the process. Maybe it can find a way to develop more young and talented officials (I don't know if you've noticed, but a lot these dudes are in their 60s and some in are their 70s - and running with high-flying 20-year-olds?). Maybe it can ensure a better product on the floor.

That's the big issue here: the product. If the NBA can provide the fans with the best show from the likes of LeBron James, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Tim Duncan, the hardcore fans will stay on board. Casual fans may even come along if the game is more entertaining. I honestly believe the game is bigger than one bad ref.

We have a tendency to go overboard with controversies and scandals when it comes to NBA. The brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., was considered the lowest moment in Stern's tenure before Donaghy. It hasn't been forgotten, and while there have constant reverberations (such as the dress code - remember when that was a big deal? - and age minimum) I have yet to see the debilitating or totally negative impact on the game.

This too, will pass.

I just can't wait to get back to watching basketball again. I bet you Stern can't either.

By Michael Lee  |  July 27, 2007; 2:28 PM ET
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Next: Weekend update



Posted by: Fulvio | July 27, 2007 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Come on Ivan....cant we get a post about the negotioation between the Wiz and Andray Blatch or what is going on with JCN

What Do you Guys Think:

all we need is Fesenko he would be good and as most of you want a lottery pick next year...he would be a lottery pick in next years draft...he is an "aggressive rebounder ans shot-blocker and likes to operate from the perimeter offensively" he is all we need


Wiz Get:
-Kyrylo Fesenko

Jazz Get:
-JCN (they need a scorer and a gaurd)
-draft rights to Vladimir Radmeenko or Calvin Booth (sign & trade)

he also has a buyout and it is worth $500,00....i was reading a scouting report on him and it says he had his best game of the season when he played agaisnt O-Pech's team (he did a great job against O-Pech...he would be a good player for us and he and O-Pech would probably get along considering they have the same culture...etc..I personally believe this is one of the most reasonable trades for us...we have a better shot at him than...Chris Wilcox, Marcus Camby (we dont want him he has a 3mil trade kicker), LaMarcus Aldridge...etc..

Posted by: Fulvio | July 27, 2007 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Mike, glad you're OK. That must have been scary! Keep the great posts coming. And for what it's worth, I agree with you about the scandal. The league will fine - the supposed negative repercussions of this are getting blown out of proportion.

Posted by: Eric | July 27, 2007 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I've been on enough similar flights featuring flying coca-cola that the instant I get my drink on the plane, I down it before I end up wearing it.

I think you are minimizing the impact that this scandal could have on the NBA, Michael. If there is one other official or player involved, that changes everything.

And even if there isn't, the financial impact on the NBA will still be significant. Let's guess that about 2% of the NBA's audience will be lost in the short term because of this scandal, either because some people decide to not watch the NBA again, people reduce their attendance or viewing by 10%, etc. The NBA has a ton of fixed costs, so a drop of revenue of 2% will hurt. Businesses are set up to increase revenue each year. A drop will be problematic and could be a big domino that sends other dominos falling.

Posted by: Sean | July 27, 2007 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Any news on Navarro? I hate to see him go to Miami. I am hoping we can package Navarro with Haywood or Etan for Camby. Or how about straight up for Lowry on Memphis (with Conley do they really need him?) How about Kmart and Camby for Jamison and Haywood.

We sure need salary relief to sign some players next year and even this year to field 15 player roster. I would give up players for trade exceptions and draft picks.

I guess Ernie wants to keep the big three together with Jordan for one more run but tell us there is some movement on Etan/Haywood divorce. Wiz NEED interior Defense and scoring badly to compete and get out of first round...or Jeff Van Gundy will be here sooner rather than later.

Posted by: wizfanatic | July 27, 2007 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Hey, ML, as another flyer who can't stand turbulence, glad you and your wife made it through that flight OK.

This ref scandal does offer the NBA an opportunity to right itself -- since the Jordan era the league has felt more like WWF; it's gone from the artistry of the 80s to something especially ugly and only sometimes inspiring.

The question I have is: how does this compare to the drug scandals of the late 70s? To me, that was worse because of 1) the just-completed merger with the ABA; 2) the unease O'Brien and others felt at promoting a majority-black league to an overwhelming white clientele (think the 1978-80 Knicks, who were rudely referred to by some as the "New York N*****bockers,"), and 3) the lack of mega-dollar TV contracts. Remember, at that point the NBA still trailed the NFL and MLB; as recently as 1980 the Lakers-Sixers NBA FINALS were shown on tape-delay. (Still remember seeing Magic's and Jamaal Wilkes's big game 6 with "VIDEOTAPED EARLIER" flashing across the screen at times.)

The league made some baby steps toward a drug policy, but it was overshadowed when Magic and Bird came into the league after that '79 championship and started the Boston-LA rivalry.

But what do you think about how these two scandals compare?

Posted by: iceberg | July 27, 2007 4:13 PM | Report abuse

We won't know the impact of the Donaghy scandal until we know more about it. If it really is just him, I think the impact will be negligible and possibly zero--it seems hard to imagine now that the 24-hour outrage machine is clanking away and people are posting on the internet about how they're "done with the NBA" (yeah, until highlights from Durant's first 40-point game hit SportsCenter you are), but we'll have like 5-10 other sports scandals between now and when the regular season tips off, and this will start to seem dated. Don't be surprised if you struggle to remember Donaghy's name in a year or two.

Posted by: Jake H. | July 27, 2007 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Thank you so much, Michael, for the most level-headed and sane response to this whole mess I've read.

Posted by: Ben | July 27, 2007 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I wonder whether Michael intended any pun regarding his "bet" that Stern can't wait to get back to watching basketball games. Anyway, I agree the league will survive although this is a devastating hit.

Posted by: low | July 27, 2007 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised Stern hasn't been more proactive on this. The far-seeing visionary that his PR paints him as would have announced that Mark Cuban was appointing a panel to revamp the entire officiating system by now.

Posted by: John Bragg | July 27, 2007 5:27 PM | Report abuse

While not relevant to this discussion stream, I thought folks would like to know the Heat signed guard Smush Parker:

I assume this takes them out as a potential destination for JCN.

Posted by: DOC | July 27, 2007 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like Ivan really really wants this to pass. Imagine if this scandal happened before Wade went to the free throw line 16 times a game? People would cry the fix is in. And what happens when Phil Jackson or Pat Riley slips up and questions if a ref is on the take when a star player gets ushered to the free throw line. This is going to come up all the time.

Posted by: DownGoesTheNBA | July 27, 2007 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Its Michael Lee not Ivan

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 6:25 PM | Report abuse

It's Mike.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 6:55 PM | Report abuse

With the Heat likely out of the JCN sweepstakes, is it Memphis and who are the Wizards likely to get? Is it just a late first rounder or a Thomas for Swift swap?

Posted by: KSM | July 27, 2007 7:07 PM | Report abuse

I have always thought that JCN would wind up in Memphis in exchange for a first-round pick. Gasol is putting tremendous pressure on the GM to go get JCN. The question is: Will it be a pure first-round pick or a lottery-protected first-round pick?

Posted by: Rockville | July 27, 2007 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Of course it will pass. And that's the initial perspective that journalists ought to convey from the onset of their weighing in.

crisis mentality is lame lame lame

but all too prevalent

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2007 5:09 AM | Report abuse

I see John Mitchell has scooped you guys with EG offering Blatche 11 million over 3 years with Blatche wanting 15 million.

With the most likely scenario being trading Navarro for a first round draft pick to Memphis and no players, please comment on whether you think this rotation and minute distribution is right (2006-2007 to 2007-2008), number of games(assuming some injuries. Basic ideas are slightly decreased minutes for Bid 3 and DeShawn due to a better bench, same for Daniels, Haywood, and Thomas. Slight increase for Songalia, more for Blatche and 1st rd pick rookie minutes for Young, McGuire (1st rd equivalent due to steal factor) and Pecherov.

Arenas, 40 to 38, 75 games
Jamison, 39 to 36, 75 games
Butler, 39 to 37, 75 games
Stevenson, 30 to 28, 80 games
Songalia, 19 to 20, 75 games
Young, 0 to 10, 50 games
McGuire, 0 to 10, 60 games
Daniels, 22 to 22, 75 games
Haywood, 22 to 20, 75 games
Thomas, 19 to 20, 70 games
Blatche, 12 to 15 minutes, 70 games
Pecherov, 0 to 10 minutes, 50 games
Booth, 8 to 8 minutes, 40 games
Miles, 8 minutes, 20 games--replaces Taylor
Hall, 6 to 8 minutes, 20 games

Out: Hayes, Ruffin, Taylor, Mason

Posted by: KSM | July 28, 2007 5:12 AM | Report abuse

"I see John Mitchell has scooped you guys with EG offering Blatche 11 million over 3 years with Blatche wanting 15 million."

Nice blog. What a way to ingratiate yourselves with this blog's authors.

Posted by: Daydreamer | July 28, 2007 5:59 AM | Report abuse

Daydreamer: the truth hurts. They did get scooped. But we still love Ivan. Hopefully Mike won't become arrogant like other Post writers (Kornheiser and Feinstein, to name a couple) - some of his answers on the weekly chats make you wonder whether it's all gone to his head already.

Posted by: Fat Lady | July 28, 2007 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like EG, if he wants to sign Blatche, might need to clear cap room. If Dallas does not sign CWebb, which they shouldn't, then they will probably jump on AB.

Posted by: DC Man88 | July 28, 2007 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Fat Lady

"The truth may hurt" but this is a service to the Wiz fans that they (The Post) provide and some things may be best left unsaid. I am sure they realize they got "scooped" (or they could not substantiate the report so didn't write it up). Either way, this venue is a means for the fans to talk about the Wiz, player movement, etc., with their efforts and insight feeding us the info to enjoy the blogging experience. Why "slam" them? (No, this is not Mike or Ivan, just a fan of their efforts)

All that said, it looks like AB doesn't have the desirabilty that he thought if he is not getting better offers than EG's. Could he be overrated by the Wiz fans and, in reality, not so hot a commodity?

Posted by: Daydreamer | July 28, 2007 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the story Mike, I'm flying to Mal Pais Costa Rica from San Jose in September on Sansa Air, maybe I should get some pills for the flight, even though it is only supposed to be 20 minutes.

Posted by: Brandon | July 28, 2007 10:32 AM | Report abuse

We need to squeeze Memphis to at the very least take Etan and JCN, I really don't care which expiring contract we get as long as we dump Etan as part of the JCN deal. If we can't trade Etan, we should buy him out. We would still end up having half of his salary on payroll but thats still clearing up 3 million a year for the next three years.

Posted by: Emmet | July 28, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

If there was a Washington Times Wizards blog I would follow that. At least the Times is keeping up with Wizards news. If I want to hear about Donaghy I'll read a national news source. I want my local paper to report on my local team.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2007 1:02 PM | Report abuse

100% agree with the last comment, not to mention there are dozens of talking heads on TV saying the same things over and over about Donaghy.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2007 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Also don't get me wrong, I enjoyed reading Michael's story.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2007 2:30 PM | Report abuse

BTW the Heat still have $2.8 million left to sign someone so not sure why the Times said they're out of the JCN hunt.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 28, 2007 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I don't know about the JCN sweepstakes, but Miami is ABSOLUTELY still in the JNC sweepstakes ;-)

Posted by: Ivan Carter | July 28, 2007 2:56 PM | Report abuse

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