Pedowitz Report Implicates Only Donaghy but Recommends Several Changes to NBA Officiating ProgramThe much anticipated Pedowitz Report has been released. You can read the 133 page document by visiting http://www.nba.com/media/PedowitzReport.pdf. If you are just interested in the bottom line conclusions, the NBA has issued a two page press release that contains four crucial bullet points:
Along with his recommendations, Mr. Pedowitz reported the following findings:
• He found no evidence that any NBA referee other than Mr. Donaghy bet on NBA games or leaked confidential NBA information to gamblers, and no evidence that phone calls between referee Scott Foster and Donaghy were attributable to criminal activity.
• He found no evidence that any referee miscalled a game to favor a particular team or player, or that the League has asked referees to call games to favor particular teams or players.
• He found no evidence to support specific allegations of game manipulation or misconduct made by Mr. Donaghy and his attorney in June 2008, including allegations regarding a 2005 playoff series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Houston Rockets and a 2002 playoff series between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings.
• He found that a number of referees engaged in forms of gambling other than betting on NBA games, in violation of League rules. The League previously decided not to discipline referees for these violations.
Pedowitz and his investigators were not able to interview Donaghy directly but according to the report they "conducted approximately 200 interviews," speaking with 57 referees plus numerous team and league executives. I read the entire report and my initial impression is that it will not change too many people's minds: those who believe either in some NBA "conspiracy" to affect the outcome of games and/or those who simply believe that NBA officiating is bad will still believe those things, while those who believe that the NBA has done the best job that it can will say that the Pedowitz investigation offers substantial proof that this is the case. My opinion is that there is no conspiracy to alter the outcomes of games/playoff series and that the NBA referees are among the best in all sports but that the NBA must be vigilant not only to avoid impropriety but the perception of impropriety and that the NBA should be more aware of the personal conduct of referees on and off the court.
It is clearly problematic that neither Pedowitz nor the NBA were able to speak with Donaghy and Pedowitz's report acknowledges this without dwelling on the issue. Without talking to Donaghy, Pedowitz and his investigators basically had to resort to context clues and process of elimination deduction to even figure out which games should be looked at more closely. Of course, even the most casual NBA fan immediately realized that two of Donaghy's most well publicized accusations concerned the 2005 playoff series between Dallas and Houston and the 2002 playoff series between L.A. and Sacramento. The Pedowitz Report looks at both series in great detail but if you just interested in the bottom line here is what the Pedowitz Report concluded:
Dallas-Houston, 2005 Playoff Series:
We have found no evidence of any inappropriate conduct in this playoff series. There is no evidence that anyone in the League office or any of the referees were intending to favor one team over another. Based at least in part on the Mavericks’ complaints, the League identified a type of erroneous non-call that referees had made in prior games and sought to correct it for future games. While Van Gundy continues to take issue with how he believes the message to correct the erroneous non-calls was delivered to the referees, he does not believe the referees or anyone else intentionally sought to manipulate a game or injure his team.
This incident has caused us to focus on the process by which team complaints about officiating are received and resolved. As we discuss in our Recommendations, we believe that all team complaints about officiating during the playoffs and the League’s response to those complaints should be posted for both teams to see.
L.A.-Sacramento, 2002 Playoff Series:
The game was, in the opinion of the reviewers, poorly officiated. There were a total of fifteen incorrect calls or non-calls. Of these fifteen errors, eight favored the Lakers, while seven favored the Kings. The bulk of the game’s incorrect calls and non-calls occurred during the first three quarters. In the critical fourth quarter, there were only three incorrect calls or non-calls: two favored the Lakers and one favored the Kings. The officiating errors were found to be distributed among the three referees as follows:
• (Dick) Bavetta made nine errors in the game, five of which favored the Lakers and four of which favored the Kings. None of these errors occurred in the fourth quarter.
• (Ted) Bernhardt made six errors, four of which favored the Lakers and two of which favored the Kings. In the fourth quarter, Bernhardt made one error favoring the Lakers.
• (Bob) Delaney made four errors in the game, two of which favored the Lakers and two of which favored the Kings. In the fourth quarter, Delaney made three of his errors: two favoring the Lakers and one favoring the Kings.
The gist of the Pedowitz Report's findings regarding this game is that it was poorly officiated but that there is no evidence that the referees intentionally did a bad job. However, there is an interesting passage about the interactions between Dick Bavetta and Bob Delaney that is disquieting; if two high profile referees have personal issues that may be affecting the quality of their officiating when they are on the same crew then the league should either compel them to resolve those issues, never assign them to work together or terminate one or both referees. Here is how the Pedowitz Report explains what happened during this game and in particular why two rather infamous calls were incorrectly made:
We also discussed Donaghy’s allegations with Ed T. Rush, who was Director of Officials at the time. Rush was present in the arena and supervised the referees during the game. He told us that he was well aware during the game that the referees were having a bad game and making errors. Rush told us that he has reviewed the video of this game on a number of occasions, and the pattern of calls, in his opinion, do not reflect favoritism. He added that it was also inconceivable to him that any of the referees would set out intentionally to extend a series. He pointed out that all of the referees are in competition each year to officiate playoff games and said it was impossible for him to believe any referee would deliberately make erroneous calls and subject himself or herself to having their calls repeatedly reviewed and criticized by the media.
Rush told us he thought that Bernhardt’s performance that night had been satisfactory, and nothing about his performance suggested that he was trying to favor either team. As to Bavetta, while he made a substantial number of errors, Rush felt there was nothing about his call patterns that suggested he was deliberately trying to favor the Lakers. Rush also noted that Bavetta had performed well in the fourth quarter, making no errors.
As to Delaney, Rush was aware that he was involved in the two most controversial calls in the fourth quarter--plays that Donaghy appears to single out as suggesting manipulation. Rush told us that he has known Delaney for many years and believes Delaney is a highly honorable person. He noted that Delaney had been a highly decorated law enforcement officer before he joined the NBA. (Delaney served with the New Jersey State Police for fourteen years before becoming an NBA referee. Delaney’s career included a three-year undercover assignment in connection with a major organized crime investigation. In 1981, Delaney testified as a law enforcement expert before a Senate subcommittee during hearings on waterfront corruption. Senators Warren Rudman and Sam Nunn praised him for his effectiveness and bravery. To this day, Delaney regularly gives speeches at federal law enforcement training sessions and to undercover operatives in the United States and Canada.)
Rush also recalled that Delaney made only a few errors but was nonetheless quite upset with the errors he had made in the fourth quarter. Having known and observed Delaney on and off the floor, and knowing how hard he tried to avoid mistakes, Rush said that he could not imagine Delaney ever deliberately manipulating a game. Rush told us that he had been in touch with Delaney and his wife after the game and learned that Delaney was so upset about his performance in that game that he had suffered sleepless nights.
Rush also told us that he thought that it had been a mistake (for which he took some responsibility) to have teamed Delaney with Bavetta in this game. While Delaney and Bavetta once had a close friendship, they had a falling out in connection with a personal matter some years before this game, and Rush felt that the poor chemistry between the two referees contributed to the crew’s poor performance in this game.
We reviewed the video of this game and discussed with NBA Basketball Operations personnel the erroneous call against Divac and the non-call against Bryant. They explained to us how Delaney and Bernhardt (on the second call) could have missed these calls. The first play, which resulted in Divac receiving his sixth foul, came while Divac was on the floor battling for the ball. Delaney saw numerous players in the scramble and blew his whistle as Bryant was moving in front of him, obstructing his view of the play. The instinct to make a call was understandable; Delaney just made the wrong one.
The second play occurred with twelve seconds left in the game, when Kobe Bryant, trying to free himself on an inbounds play, elbowed Mike Bibby in the face. While Bryant’s elbow, though seemingly inadvertent, was a foul, it occurred only after Bibby grabbed Bryant’s arms in what appears to be an effort to prevent him from freeing himself to receive the inbounds pass. Delaney was positioned on the baseline at an angle that prevented him from getting a good look at the play. Bibby had his back to Delaney, and contact of the nature of the elbow to Bibby’s nose is often incidental. The blood from Bibby’s nose was not seen until later. Bernhardt was the slot official at the time. Bryant moved away from Bernhardt’s position, so Bernhardt also did not have a good angle to see Bryant’s elbow to Bibby. Indeed, the Basketball Operations personnel told us that the television camera had by far the best view of this play.
As noted above, we also re-interviewed all of the current referees after Donaghy’s allegations surfaced in June 2008. There was not a single referee among the dozens we interviewed who supported Donaghy’s claims about this game. The referees told us that the consistent message from the League is to make accurate calls. It has never been suggested to them that they should favor a team or try to extend a series.
Some referees also told us that no rational referee would deliberately make incorrect calls in a game (let alone a playoff game) and subject him or herself to the embarrassment of having calls replayed over and over on ESPN. Some told us that not only was the allegation illogical for that reason, but there also is no economic incentive for referees to try to extend a series. While a referee receives additional compensation for each round of the playoffs he or she officiates, this compensation is the same for a given round whether a referee officiates one or two games in that playoff round.
A number of referees also noted that, because of the strained personal relationship between Delaney and Bavetta, the two men were unlikely to engage in any cooperative venture, let alone one that involved clearly improper conduct. A number of referees also offered the following observation: Game 6 was a controversial game with which almost every veteran referee is familiar. Because it is well known that the referees made numerous errors in the game, it was easy for Donaghy--trying to avoid a jail sentence by providing information about other referees--to suggest that he had a conversation with one of the referees to the effect that two of them hoped to extend the series.
One of the referees told us that he had discussed this game with Donaghy years earlier. While Donaghy had noted the many errors by the referees, he never suggested that he had heard that referees in this game made bad calls to extend the series. We also found it noteworthy that, while referee basketball gossip travels quickly throughout the referee ranks, the referees had not heard any suggestion that Bavetta and Delaney had tried to extend the series.
We have not seen or heard evidentiary or logical support for Donaghy’s allegations about this game.
Any person who is objective realizes that even the best referees are going to miss some calls for a variety of reasons and that fans watching games on TV have the benefit of numerous camera angles plus instant replay, luxuries that the referees do not have; they get one chance at full speed to make the right call. The bottom line is that coaches, players and referees all make mistakes. That is just part of the game. The goal for all parties concerned is to minimize those mistakes. In game seven of the Lakers-Kings 2002 series, the Kings lost by six points in overtime after shooting just 16-30 from the free throw line; if they made more of those free throws then they would have won the series even though the referees did not have a great game six. I think that it is reckless and irresponsible to say that game six was "fixed." I would suggest that anyone who says this take a look at his or her own job performance and consider what standard he or she expects to be held to and if that standard equals the call accuracy that NBA officials maintain.
posted by David Friedman @ 7:19 PM