- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2007

Tim Donaghy resorted to the sympathy card while confirming his guilt in a Brooklyn courtroom this week.

The creep who has validated a zillion conspiracy theories that envelop the NBA told the U.S. District Court judge that he is under psychiatric care because of a gambling addiction and depression and anxiety issues.

Of course, a person facing up to 25 years in prison has a right to feel depressed and anxious about his future.

Not that Donaghy will receive the maximum sentence. It is in his best interests to be highly cooperative with the feds and the NBA and shave off as much prison time as possible.

It is still unclear how many NBA games Donaghy influenced with his whistle last season. It is equally unclear whether Donaghy and his buddies limited their nefarious activities to the over/under betting line or whether it included altering the winners and losers of a game.

No doubt that information eventually will surface as Donaghy goes about singing before his sentencing Nov. 9.

At least one game involving the Wizards and Donaghy has been cited: a Dec. 26 contest that resulted in the host Wizards defeating the Grizzlies 116-101 and covering the eight-point spread.

Yet there is nothing about the game’s box score that seems out of kilter.

The Grizzlies were in a dreadful slump at the time, with Pau Gasol just back from injury, and the Wizards had this game in hand by the second quarter because of terrific shooting.

The Wizards led 77-51 by halftime, and not because of a compelling advantage at the free throw line. In fact, the Grizzlies ended up shooting 13 more free throw attempts than the Wizards. The Grizzlies also were cited for two fewer fouls than the Wizards.

Perhaps with the Wizards on a blistering shooting pace early in the game, Donaghy recognized there was no need to implement his handiwork.

That is what makes this scandal so chilling to the NBA. A crooked referee is nearly undetectable to those entrusted with maintaining the integrity of the game.

A referee need only make a couple of late foul calls in a game to get the desired result.

It is not necessary for a referee to be blatant, just savvy enough to increase the collective point totals of the two teams.

David Stern can only hope that the investigation yields no one from the NBA other than Donaghy, labeled a “rogue official.”

Stern’s damage-control efforts are certain to be considerable in the months ahead, with ever more critics claiming that the outcomes of too many games appear preordained.

That is partly naivety on the part of the critics who can’t seem to accept the physical strain of an 82-game schedule that leaves teams coping with varying levels of fatigue, depending on where the teams are in their respective schedules.

The inflated schedule, maybe 10 games too many, leads to too many outcomes that go down as a “scheduling loss,” in the vernacular of NBA coaches.

That contributes to the impression that the games are not on the up and up and that players only extend themselves in the last few minutes of a game.

The regular season of the NBA features 1,230 games, with perhaps nearly one-fourth of the outcomes being determined as much by the schedule as by the relative merits of each team.

That is lots of low-quality entertainment, undermined further by the guilty plea of Donaghy.

Consider the scenario of a well-rested team going against a road-weary team, with a referee manipulating the proceedings.

That game might as well have Vince McMahon doing the pre-game introductions.

Donaghy aside, the number of dubious calls in the NBA is staggering.

“Tony, you’re a [bleeping] idiot,” Don Nelson told referee Tony Brothers following an awful call that sent Gilbert Arenas to the free throw line with one-tenth of a second left in a game last March.

The observation earned Nelson a technical foul, Arenas hit all three free throw attempts, and the Wizards prevailed 107-106.

Such bizarre endings will evoke Donaghy’s name this coming season.

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