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Ref scandal will rock the NBA

Tim Donaghy is one of those refs who just seemed to blend in. I know because I've either sat courtside or extremely close to just about every Wizards game the last two seasons and I've covered a bunch of other playoff-finals games over the years. When his name was dropped yesterday as having possibly bet on and/or influenced the outcome of games, I had to do a double take before saying "oh, that guy."

Here's the interesting thing: Donaghy worked seven Wizards games last season (all regular season) and two of them were nail biters. The first was a 93-92 Wiz win over Atlanta at VC on March 2. I remember that game. DeShawn Stevenson made two free throws in the final minute (can't remember which ref made the call) and then blocked Ty Lue's attempt at a game-winner at the buzzer.

The second game was even bigger, a 98-95 Wiz win at Indiana on April 18 in the regular season finale. You probably remember that the Wiz, Nets, Bulls and Raptors were all still jostling for playoff position going into that night. I can't remember anything goofy happening down the stretch though. Donaghy also worked a April 10 game in which the Nets won 96-92 in Jersey. I remember that because DeShawn felt he had been fouled on a couple of late drives to the basket but didn't get a call.

The real point here is that once a single NBA ref is proven to be dirty, EVERYTHING can be called into question. Hey, it happens already. The game moves too fast, the bodies are too big and the pressure to get calls right is so great that controversy is bound to happen. But this is David Stern's worst nightmare, no question. I know this: I wouldn't want to be an NBA ref next season. Imagine that the Wiz and Warriors have a finish like they did at VC on March 4?

Remember that game? That was when the crew of Derrick Stafford, Jason Phillips and Tony Brothers made several questionable calls down the stretch of what turned out to be a 107-106 Wiz win. First, they called Caron Butler on a shaky hand-checking foul when Al Harrington drove to the basket late. Harrington made two free throws, giving GS a 106-104 lead. Then, the Wiz inbounded the ball to Gilbert, who drove and drew a foul call on Mickael Pietrus. However, the call appeared to come a little late and caused Don Nelson to exploid off the bench and say some very unfriendly things to Brothers, who then gave Nellie a technical foul. Gilbert made the two free throws stemming from the shooting foul and then made the tech to ice the game.

The Wiz won, the Warriors went nuts - (I'll never forget the look on the face of Matt Barnes as he left the court. Ever had your bike jacked as a kid? That's was the look) - and the refs, not the players, were the subject of post-game questions. Now, if that happens next season, we all know what the speculation is going to be. Was one or more of the refs on the take? What was the point spread? The over/under? I've never made a point of checking out the lines before an NBA game but that is something I'll have to do next season. We all will, won't we?

Crooked refs. Star NFL quarterbacks torturing dogs. Steroid abusers breaking all-time baseball records.....boy it's a great time for sports huh?

By Ivan Carter  |  July 21, 2007; 11:23 AM ET
 
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