NBA commissioner David Stern went to great pains last July to paint former referee Tim Donaghy as a “rouge, isolated criminal”, claiming that no other officials would be implicated in the league’s betting scandal. Fast forward to yesterday and with the revelation that some Association zebras had engaged in casino and golf wagering, Stern described his gambling ban as œ too absolute, too harsh, and not particularly well enforced over the years.”

The New York Post’s Peter Vescey
considers Stern’s new, non-hysterical approach, claiming “whistle blowers have been gambling in casinos and at the track, as well as betting on sporting events (their own, too, I’d wager, though you can’t quote me) long before I began covering pro basketball in the late 1960s.”

Rules forbidding gambling of any kind (exempting the track during the offseason) have been in force for many moons, but they’ve rarely, if ever, been enforced. As long as refs kept a low profile when playing craps or blackjack, whatever, at their favorite upscale hangout, nobody seemed to care enough to investigate.

That’s probably because so many other NBA-related people – players, coaches, general managers, league administrators, sports writers – were out and about doing their share of gambling.

We’re talking high-stake card games that take place on charters (out in the open when teams flew commercial), hotel rooms (late into the a.m. with a playoff game that night), bus rides (or trains when that was the mode of travel), in executive suites and behind closed doors in team offices. And what about all the green exchanging hands after the 18th green? And the football pools? And the lotteries? And on and on.

If you’re a referee, all of that is strictly prohibited. To engage in any of it could result in a suspension or dismissal.

If you were a player, coach, GM, Stu Jackson or David Stern, you were free to gamble your life away.

The fact the rule only applied to refs is one of the reasons the commissioner has decided, at long last, to eradicate the inequitable double standard . . . and 28 or so naughty refs thank him for it.

Now if only Stern would apply that same common sense to the league’s ridiculously rigid rule (automatic one-game suspension) regarding players who leave the bench (a step or two) during a disturbance.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Jerry Zgoda suggests Antoine Walker should be looking to rent, not buy in the Twin Cities. Though who knows how seriously ‘Toine’s career might recover if the T-Wolves appointed Aaron Gleeman as his personal nutritionist?