Some Questions to Consider About the Tim Donaghy CaseMore information is sure to become publicly known about the Tim Donaghy case in the next few days and weeks but here are some of the questions that I am wondering about:
1) How exactly could one referee on a crew of three make enough bad calls to affect a point spread without getting caught quickly?
Keep in mind that in addition to the watchful eyes of his two partners, Donaghy (and every other NBA official) was subject to extensive monitoring/grading of every call (and non-call) from the games that he officiated. I would be very interested to learn the logistics of what in fact Donaghy is specifically accused of doing and how the NBA graded his performance in the games in question; I'm not saying that all of this information will ever be released but it would be fascinating to look over.
2) As a corollary to the first question, is there some flaw/problem in the grading process that enables a referee to have enough leeway to make point spread altering calls without being detected?
It's possible that any alleged "bad" calls came on plays that contain a certain amount of gray area or leeway and that in a given game Donaghy made more "gray area" calls in favor of one team than another.
3) Were other referees acting in concert with Donaghy?
Of course, if Donaghy had accomplices then it would be easier for him to affect the point spread and/or outcome of a game but it still is not clear how he would have avoided detection during the grading process.
4) Was Donaghy in fact grading poorly in the NBA's evaluation system and perhaps on his way out of the league before the FBI nailed him?
Donaghy has never worked an NBA Finals game, so he clearly was not grading out among the very best officials. He worked a few playoff games this year.
5) How did Donaghy get so deeply in debt to mafia connected figures without NBA security officials knowing about it?
Referees' itineraries are supposed to be closely monitored and they are obviously not supposed to be gambling at all, let alone associating with underworld figures, so it is hard to understand how Donaghy got himself so deeply in trouble without the NBA knowing about it. I wonder if the NBA had some idea of what was going on but was forbidden by the FBI from acting against him until the FBI built up whatever case it is trying to make against not just Donaghy but whatever mob figures they are trying to bring down. While Donaghy is the NBA's primary concern in this matter, the FBI is probably trying to nail a prominent mobster; perhaps if the NBA tipped its hand regarding Donaghy that would have compromised the FBI's investigation. Obviously, I am just speculating here, but I just cannot comprehend how this could have gone on for two seasons without the NBA realizing it.
In recent years, the NBA has been much more vigorous about cracking down on traveling violations, "superstar" calls and other inconsistencies that used to annoy purists. The institution of videotape review and the improvement of the grading process were supposed to weed out the incompetent referees. For obvious reasons, the NBA has never made public exactly how its officials grade out. One can make some educated guesses about this based on which referees have retired/been released in recent years and which referees get the most playoff assignments/Finals games. One thing that may happen as a result of the Donaghy case is that the NBA may start making public at least some parts of the grading process. Clearly, many fans will be clamoring for the NBA to clean up this situation and, just as importantly, to prove that the situation has been cleaned up.
posted by David Friedman @ 5:19 AM