Friday, October 30, 2009

Tim Donaghy: Sacto Was Jobbed in 2002 Western Conf Finals

I feel like baseball fans did when the steroids allegations came out. At first, I disbelieved the allegations; however, over time, I agreed the MLB had a problem. (Seeing a rookie Oakland A's McGwire card and a St. Louis Cardinals McGwire card helped.) And I am disgusted. I don't care if Tim Donaghy lied on other issues. When someone lies, it means you may--but are not required to--discount his entire testimony. My gut tells me that Donaghy is right. And for the first time in my life, I hate the NBA.

I graduated from UC Davis in 1999. (Davis is only ten minutes away from Sacramento.) I remember the classy but futile Mitch Richmond era, and I loved seeing Jason "White Chocolate" Williams throw up half-court treys that would somehow go in. I loved seeing Vlade's flops, Webber's crisp passes, and stories about Christie's henpecking wife. And even though I felt Sacto got jobbed, I still didn't know they got jobbed. There's a difference.

Now that I agree/believe Sacto got jobbed, I am sad, angry, and miserable. Sad, because I love the NBA. Most Americans come alive in March for the college tourney, but it's too hard for me to keep up with all the different players. With the NBA, you get to see the best players, and (with some exceptions) you get to see them grow up over several years.

I am angry, because I don't understand how Stern or the NBA's front office could have allowed a referee's personal preference to change a game's tempo and/or result. I suddenly have newfound respect for both Allen Iverson and Joe Crawford, which is amazing, b/c I hated Crawford after he called the infamous technical on a bench-sitting Tim Duncan. (Congrats, Stern--your negligent oversight has made me appreciate the hot-headed, bald, and cranky Joe Crawford.)

Finally, I am miserable, because an NBA refereeing scandal is far worse than doping in baseball. In baseball, doping might provide a player an advantage, but umpires cannot consistently collude to give one team a game or a series. Donaghy's allegations of referee favoritism create doubts not just about previous NBA champions, but about the foundation of the game itself. Who wants to watch a sport if they know referees can and have pre-ordained the result? (On a personal note, I am also miserable because I don't really love any other sport. I like hockey, but I don't love it. And if it weren't for fantasy football, I could not care less about Sundays.)

Stern needs to reform the league. Now I think Stern should have continued using replacement refs. By allowing the regular refs to return, Stern may have missed a good opportunity to eliminate the NBA's bad/corrupt refs. (He could have re-hired the good refs a few years later.)

Here's one excerpt from the book, which isn't being published yet because of legal threats from--who else?--the NBA:

The 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings presents a stunning example of game and series manipulation at its ugliest. As the teams prepared for Game 6 at the Staples Center, Sacramento had a 3–2 lead in the series...As soon as the referees for the game were chosen, the rest of us knew immediately that there would be a Game 7. A prolonged series was good for the league, good for the networks, and good for the game. Oh, and one more thing: it was great for the big-market, star-studded Los Angeles Lakers.

Before Donaghy, I would have just sighed at the disgrace that was Game Six. Now, I am angry. If Stern and the NBA want to keep me as a fan, they'd better do something. Quick.

Bonus: completely random website recommendations:


SA said...

I actually think it's time for Stern and Jackson to step down. It's beyond time for some new blood in the league office - these guys have had their way for way too long and anyway, every organization needs new blood every so often.

K_Yew said...

SA, you make some excellent points. Maybe it is time for the top NBA executives to retire.

Wormboy said...

I've always considered that 2002 West was fixed. Likewise for Protland in their nice run.

Here's how it works: Call ticky-tack fouls on guys guarding Shaq. They sit the bench, Shaq goes on epic romps, game over in a tight series.

Basketball is the sport MOST influenced by refs. It is truly trivial to tip a game on way or the other, especially in closely matched late playoff series.