Disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy is giving credence to Toronto Raptors fans who feel their team was victimized by biased officiating in game one of their NBA Eastern Conference playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets last Saturday.
Donaghy, who was an NBA official from 1994-2007 before being fired and later imprisoned for betting on games he officiated, appeared Tuesday on The Jeff Blair Show on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. He told Blair why he believes the Raptors are at a disadvantage in the series.
“They’re not only going against the Brooklyn Nets but going against the league office,” Donaghy said. “They have a very talented team and have to be that much better than the Brooklyn Nets. I have picked Brooklyn to win the series with (Paul) Pierce, (Kevin) Garnett, Joe Johnson and even Jason Kidd. When you look at the coaches – the referees are going to be more active to talk and respond to (Kidd) over (Raptors coach) Dwane Casey.”
Donaghy officiated in several playoff games in his NBA career and is of the belief that the league office indirectly trains officials to favour certain teams. He told Blair the league meets with referees before playoff games to explain what they specifically want and do not want called during games.
“What they do is they actually send in a representative from the league office to sit down with the referees at an 11 o’clock meeting in the morning where they go over game film," Donaghy said. “They will show the referees what they want called, what they want them to concentrate on, what they feel needs to be called or let go in a series to avoid any problems. With that, you would leave the room and say to yourself one team is put at an advantage or disadvantage.
“In this situation, Brooklyn would be put at an advantage. A Brooklyn-Miami matchup would bring great ratings and that’s what this is all about for the NBA and the league offices – bringing in as many dollars as they can.”
UPDATE: NBA spokesperson Micheal Bass issued the following statement on behalf of the league in response to Tim Donaghy's comments:
"Tim Donaghy is a convicted felon looking for any opportunity for people to listen to his baseless allegations. For Mr. Donaghy to continually try to challenge his former colleagues' ethics is distasteful and says more about his own integrity than it could ever say about our referees, who are the best and most scrutinized game officials in the world.”
Many questioned the integrity of the officials and the NBA following Toronto’s game one loss after the Nets went the majority of the fourth quarter without a foul called against them.
Donaghy wasn’t surprised.
“Some of the things that the league does and continues to do puts these teams at a disadvantage -- like the Toronto Raptors -- because moving forward they won’t bring in the big dollars for the league. It’s terrible for the fans (of) Toronto. They go and support that team but really they’re going to have trouble moving on based on talent and what takes place on the floor when they’re really going against the refs and the league, along with the Nets.”
Donaghy added that referees are graded based on what they’re told to call, so officials are likely to comply with what the league wants in order to earn status and further their careers.
“As a referee, you get paid an enormous amount of money as (you) advance in rounds,” he said. “You’re bring graded in every way you’re officiated. And you’re going to be graded on what they want you to call. So if they say ‘Kyle Lowry is hand-checking Deron Williams and we need that called’, you’re certainly going to call it. If you let something go, you’re going to be dinged with a missed call.
“If you’re going to continue to progress up the ladder and make more money and gain status like Joey Crawford and Dick Bavetta, you’re going to do what they want.”
Another disadvantage the Raptors have, according to Donaghy, is that they do not have a star player that will receive favourable officiating; something that Donaghy says has been part of the NBA since the early 1990s.
“It started with Michael Jordan,” he explained. "The referees used to tell the younger referees that if Jordan goes to the hole and if there’s a crowd in there then just blow the whistle. That’s what the refs are programmed (to do) – to give that star player the benefit of the doubt. Even when he commits a foul, if you can give a foul to another player in that area – that’s what you’re told to do."
Entering game two, Donaghy doesn’t expect the Raptors to see much of an improvement from the officials.
“When I look at refs for tonight’s game for example… if you’re putting Gary Zielinski and David Jones in an arena like Portland where the fans are very boisterous and come down on you at every call, then that home team will have an advantage. They’re what we consider to be in the referee world kind of like homer refs. They don’t like to go against the tough crowd.
“This isn’t a knock on Toronto or their fans, but they don’t have that type of crowd. If they did, I would say Toronto would be in good shape tonight.”