By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
LOS ANGELES, June 10 -- A letter sent to the sentencing court on behalf of disgraced former referee Tim Donaghy alleges that NBA referees were involved in conflicts of interest, intentionally blew foul calls and participated in fixing the outcome of playoff games. The letter, filed in Brooklyn federal court, also claimed that NBA officials told referees not to call technical fouls on star players so that it would not affect television ratings.
Donaghy told the FBI that referees, whom he referred to as "company men," helped alter the controversial 2002 playoff series between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings. His attorney, John F. Lauro, of Tampa, filed a second letter in which he said the NBA was seeking $1 million from Donaghy for restitution.
Richard Buchanan, NBA executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement: "The NBA remains vigilant in protecting the integrity of our game and has fully cooperated with the government at every stage of its investigation. The only criminal activity uncovered is Mr. Donaghy's."
Donaghy will be sentenced next month. He claimed that officials desired to extend the Lakers-Kings series to seven games by calling more fouls against the Kings in Game 6. In that game, two Sacramento players -- Vlade Divac and Scot Pollard -- fouled out defending Shaquille O'Neal. The Lakers shot 40 free throws in the game, compared with 25 for Sacramento. Pollard, now with the Boston Celtics, addressed the allegations before Game 3 on Tuesday.
"If it was proven that it was -- I don't know how it could ever be proven that it was -- that would hurt," Pollard said. "That would hurt the league, it would hurt my feelings, it would hurt everybody. That's ugly. You don't want that to be true. I don't want it to be found out that that was true. I would much rather live with human error than human interference."
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson dismissed Donaghy's claims. "The allegation was that they were extending the series? Was that after the fifth game after we had the game stolen away from us after a bad call out of bounds and gave the ball back to Sacramento and they made a three-point shot?" Jackson said. "There's a lot of things going on in these games and they're suspicious, but I don't want to throw it back to there."
Lamell McMorris, head of the NBA referees union, also issued a statement: "Tim Donaghy has had honesty and credibility issues from the get-go. I'm not aware of any improper conduct by any current NBA referee in the playoffs six years ago or any conspiracy by the NBA to affect the outcome of any game then or now. Frankly we're tired of Tim Donaghy's cat and mouse games."
Donaghy faces up to 33 years in prison for his conviction stemming from his involvement in a betting scandal last year.