Tom Knott: NBA’s wrongs make a compelling write

Even the dishonest sometimes stumble into the truth.

That is the implicit demand of Tim Donaghy, the fallen former NBA referee turned ex-con and now tell-all author.

And Donaghy is telling tales that have a strong suggestion of truth.

In “Personal Foul,” his recently released book, Donaghy writes how Steve Javie had a grudge against Allen Iverson, how Dick Bavetta was a master at manipulating games and how this kind of insider’s knowledge allowed him to win 70 to 80 percent of his bets.

That winning clip, concurred by the FBI’s lead investigator, is persuasive.

Don’t take him at his word, Donaghy is saying in effect. Believe his betting record.

Donaghy said he could look at which crew was scheduled to referee an NBA game and have a fairly strong idea how the game was going to be called: which players were going to be favored and which ones were going to be shafted.

The NBA, predictably enough, continues to portray Donaghy as a “rogue referee” whose charges are baseless.

“Aren’t you the rogue referee?” Bob Simon asked in a recent “60 Minutes” interview.

“I certainly made some terrible choices to do what I did,” Donaghy said, “but the culture that existed within the game of the NBA enabled me to be able to do this at a very successful rate.”

Once, when the league office sent word that the referees were missing too many fouls in the vicinity of Kobe Bryant, Donaghy knew what the result would be.

It would mean no defender could so much as “breathe” on Bryant without incurring a foul and that he would end up spending a lot of time at the free throw line. It would not take a Mensa candidate at this point to deduce the Lakers would have a high probability of covering the point spread.

Donaghy is touching on something that most NBA supporters see on a routine basis - the preferential treatment of what the NBA deems its meal tickets.

That would be both Bryant and LeBron James.

“Fans don’t pay high prices to see players like [defensive specialist] Raja Bell,” Donaghy writes in his book. “They pay to see superstars like Kobe Bryant score 40 points. … If a player of Kobe’s stature collides with the likes of Raja Bell, the call will almost always go for Kobe and against Bell.”

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