A little more background on embattled former NBA referee Tim Donaghy from the New York Daily News’ Frank Isola. Donaghy, it seems, “received an above-average evaluation from his superiors for the past season”.

“The league was extremely pleased with his progress,” the source said. “They thought it was his best year.”
Despite claims from friends and neighbors yesterday that Donaghy had been the target of a private investigator hired by the NBA to look into his gambling habits, the league continued to increase his workload.

“The playoffs are a reward,” said a retired NBA referee, who asked not to be identified. “(Donaghy) made it to the second round (of the playoffs). From everything I heard, he was on track to referee third-round games next season.”

The same referee said that the NBA goes to great lengths to monitor and evaluate its officiating crews and that if the league knew of any improprieties involving Donaghy, it would have acted swiftly to remove him.

After Donaghy worked a Spurs-Suns playoff game, he received a phone call from the league to inform him that his season was over, while expressing satisfaction with this work.

“Tim made it to the second round, so what does that tell you?” the former referee said. “The league records every call an official makes. There is an observer at every game. And then you have coaches and executives from teams calling all the time saying, ‘Did you see this, or did you see that.’ A lot of guys think it is too much, but Stu (Jackson, the NBA’s vice president of basketball operations) and Ronnie (Nunn, the NBA’s supervisor of officials) want to make sure there is accountability

After 13 years, Donaghy was starting to earn a reputation as a no-nonsense official, who last season called the most technical fouls in the league. In Donaghy’s first Knicks game last season, he called two technicals on Chicago head coach Scott Skiles, resulting in an automatic ejection.In Donaghy’s other game in New York, he was part of an officiating crew that awarded the Knicks 39 free throws compared to eight for the Miami Heat. Five of the Knicks’ free throws came courtesy of technical fouls called against Pat Riley and assistant coach Ron Rothstein as well as from three defensive three-second violations.

Not to be outdone by Isola’s research, the Post was able to dig up a guy who claims Donaghy put a dead bird in his golf bag.

Dave from Blazers Edge considers what he calls “an enormous black eye for the league”.

The biggest problem of all is going to be the same problem the league has always had: perception. If you took a poll of Americans asking which sports league is most likely to be crooked the NBA would win by a landslide. The above-mentioned biases open the door to those thoughts. The relative isolation of the league from its fans invites people through those doors. For the most part in the Stern era the NBA has been an elitist, detached, monolithic entity with little or no connection to, or response to, the average fan. It’s natural for the average fan to wonder why. One possible answer is that you’re just arrogant and don’t particularly care about the little guy. Another is that you do care about reaching out but you’re incompetent with your public relations. Those answers make it hard to remain a fan, however, so many people reach for option three: you’re detached because you have something to hide. It’s natural for every fan in every sport to think that some cosmic force is cursing their team when the team doesn’t win. Because of the gap between the common guy and the NBA it’s easy for fans to put a name to that mysterious, shadowed cosmic force: David Stern, the league, the refs. This scandal is going to be more grist for the mill.

There were probably a hundred things the league could have done differently in the last twenty years to lessen that perception but it chose to go a different way. The shoddy perception is a direct cost of the way the NBA has chosen to do business. Without the star system, without the Shaq and Kobe Lakers marketing, without the league’s insistence on entertainment as the steak with basketball a small lump of green beans on the side, without the elitism, arrogance, flaunted wealth, and detachment this incident probably would have drawn a response of, “How horrible that ref did that!” much the same way the Pete Rose gambling incident was perceived in baseball. Instead this is going to be seen as one more piece of evidence that there’s a systemic problem even though it’s largely the actions of one man.