Tim Donaghy continues to claim that he did not fix games

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Tim Donaghy relayed inside information about the NBA to gamblers. He was involved in bets on games he was refereeing. He was sent to prison for 11 months because of what he did. Since he got out of jail, Donaghy has gone on the offensive. 
He published a book which claims that he was able to pick NBA games, against the spread, with a 70% success rate, thanks to his intimate understanding of the biases and tendencies of his fellow referees. He has repeatedly and fervently denied that he ever intentionally used his whistle to impact the game in a way that would benefit him and the bets he made on the games he was officiating. 
Recently, Donaghy has been using Deadspin.com as a platform to critique his former referee colleagues and continue to assert that the rest of the NBA are the crooked ones. (An example: “If we graded the [NBA Finals] broadcast according to how well it fulfilled Mr. Stern’s demands, I’d give ABC an A-plus.”)
On June 11th, Henry Abbott of TrueHoop, who has interviewed Donaghy and done lots of work regarding Donaghy’s attacks on the NBA before, published a piece calling Donaghy’s latest batch of claims into question and featuring an interview with Shawna Vercher, the former publisher of Donaghy’s book. 
Using his FaceBook page, Donaghy chose to respond to Abbott’s latest piece. He referred to it as “mean-spirited” and “factually incorrect.” He continues to claim that a “thorough” FBI investigation found that he did not fix games, and used that finding to call into question the work of Haralambos Voulgaris, a gambling expert who has analyzed footage of games Donaghy bet on and refereed and found some serious issues regarding the distribution of Donaghy’s calls. 
Mr. Voulgaris responded to Donaghy on the FaceBook thread, confronting him with data from games Donaghy has officiated. He then asked Donaghy to explain why, for example, he called 17 fouls against one team and 0 against the other in one game, and 26 fouls against one team and six against the other in a separate game. 
He also found some inaccuracies in one of Donaghy’s attacks on referee Derrick Stafford:
You write that the reason you bet NYK in the Feb 26 2007 game vs MIA was;
“Derrick Stafford had a close relationship with Knicks coach Isiah Thomas, and he despised Heat coach Pat Riley. I picked the Knicks without batting an eye and settled in for a roller-coaster ride on the court”
Later on you write about this same game;
“I worked a Knicks game in MSG with him on Feb 26, 2007. New York shot an astounding 39 free throws to Miami’s paltry eight. It seemed like Stafford was working for the Knicks, calling fouls on Miami like crazy. (page 109)”
Here are the actual details for that game (fouls + violations+infractions)
Derrick Stafford 16 total calls
9 calls favoring NYK
7 calls favoring MIA
Tim Donaghy 18 total calls
14 calls favoring NYK
4 Calls favoring MIA
Did you honestly believe you could write something so inaccurate in the hopes that nobody would actually attempt to verify your claims?

Donaghy responded to that by claiming that Voulgaris had been unsuccessfully searching for a job with the NBA for several years. That claim was quickly revealed to be untrue, and the accusation was then redacted by Donaghy. Donaghy then published his email address and invited Voulgaris to have a private conversation with him. He also looked at the first two plays of a detailed video breakdown Voulgaris had made of one of his officiating performances, defended the calls he made, and then said he “did not feel the need to continue.” There was also some discussion about the accuracy of Volugaris’ methods, all of which Voulgaris responded to.

At this point, I think it would be best to review the cases for and against the veracity of Donaghy’s post-prison claims, and the evidence supporting each viewpoint.
Donaghy’s Version of Events:

Tim Donaghy claims that he was able to pick NBA games correctly against the spread at an amazingly high rate because he knew how the league and his fellow referees influenced games in unseen ways. 
Some of the examples he gave were that Dick Bavetta liked to keep games close, that Steve Javie disliked Allen Iverson, that Joe Crawford loved Allen Iverson, and other things of that nature. Using detailed gambling databases, previous game footage, and months of painstaking research, Henry Abbott and Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop proved that if Donaghy had followed his “rules,” he would have ended up losing money. Some of the parties Donaghy claimed were involved in specific incidents during Donaghy’s time as a referee also deny that those incidents ever occurred.
Donaghy, despite the fact he was betting on games that he was officiating, was calling the games fairly; according to Donaghy’s version of events, the gambling addiction that ruined his life did not influence his calls the way Steve Javie’s dislike of Allen Iverson influenced his calls. After he was found guilty of betting on games, Donaghy decided to expose who the “real” bad guys were. 
Donaghy’s standard rebuttal to everyone who claims that he may have fixed games is that the FBI did a “thorough” investigation into him and found that he did not fix games. The FBI’s investigation mainly focused on money that was going to the Gambino crime family, and specifically abstains from saying that the FBI found that Donaghy did or did not fix games. The NBA’s own investigation into Donaghy, the Pedowitz Report, also refrained from making a conclusion on that front, saying that they did not look at many of Donaghy’s games, and even saying that they had found some questionable things in the games they did look at. 
I will also note that Donaghy has been attempting to encourage paranoia and promote conspiracy theories against multiple large entities since he returned from prison, most notably the NBA and ESPN, even when ESPN has shown its work at every opportunity. That he asks for the public to have complete and unwavering faith in an FBI report that nobody has seen and did not specifically say it found him innocent seems to reveal an inconsistency in Mr. Donaghy’s feelings about large entities. 
The Other Version of Events:

The other version of events is that Tim Donaghy is a gambling addict who got involved with the mafia, overestimated his own ability to handicap games (which, by the way, problem gamblers do), and ended up in over his head. He then began betting on games he was working and, consciously
or unconsciously, changed th
e outcome of the games in order to win his bets. 
When HBO’s Bryant Gumbel asked Donaghy’s former gambling partner if Donaghy fixed games, he gave a long, long pause before saying “no comment,” then basically said he didn’t want to know whether or not Donaghy was fixing games. 
Gumbel also said something at the end of that segment which I will now put in boldface and italicize: 
One Quick Postscript: According to Batista [the man who bankrolled Donaghy’s picks], Donaghy wasn’t much of a handicapper when he wasn’t directly involved. The games Donaghy picked but didn’t officiate? Batista ultimately said “Thanks, but no thanks,” after those picks lost him money.

Statistical research on the factors Donaghy said allowed him to pick games at 70% proved that betting those factors would not have won Donaghy money. Donaghy’s former gambling partner said that his picks on games he did not officiate lost him money. Yet Tim Donaghy made money the vast majority of the time on games he officiated. There is detailed statistical analysis, with accompanying video, showing that Donaghy had a tendency to call games in a ludicrously one-sided fashion. If found guilty of fixing games, Donaghy faces additional criminal charges to the ones he has already been convicted of. Given that information, how many possible conclusions are there?
Tim Donaghy is feeding on our insecurities. We’re sometimes so afraid of being seen as naive that we’ll believe any narrative other than the one presented to us by a “mainstream” entity, and often end up making ourselves cripplingly naive by doing so. But every now and then, Occam’s Razor works. The referee who bet on games, went to jail for betting on games, and is trying to make back the reparation money he owes for illegally betting on games is the one who isn’t on the up-and-up here, not the ones getting a desperate finger pointed at them. As of right now, Tim Donaghy is failing the duck test.
The men whose supposed biases have been statistically proven not to impact their work and do their best every day to correctly call a game that is nearly impossible to officiate perfectly are not the bad guys in this picture. There is likely not a vast NBA conspiracy that has placed the reputation and long-term survival of a multi-billion dollar industry in the hands of some of its most-maligned and worst-paid employees.
The amount of disrespect Tim Donaghy has shown to the game of basketball and the league that employed him is appalling. First, Donaghy bet on the game of basketball, the ultimate sports sin. That alone should have been enough to make Tim Donaghy’s name live in basketball infamy for as long as people talk about basketball.
Since his supposed rehabilitation Donaghy has, shockingly, made things worse. The 1919 White Sox admitted to their crimes when presented with the evidence. Pete Rose may have denied his guilt for decades, but at least he never tried to take anybody down with him. In response to the overwhelming evidence that he fixed games, Donaghy has decided that the best defense is a good offense. 
He has, in the most calculated and self-serving manner possible, tapped into long-standing anxieties that basketball fans have about the way the game is officiated and used that to deflect attention away from his own indiscretions. How badly you wanted the Kings to win in 2002 doesn’t make the evidence against Donaghy go away. If you want to talk about games like that, go to places like this. The man to lead the discussion about NBA officiating is not the ex-con ex-ref with some very murky motives behind his words. 
In order to prove himself innocent of a crime he likely committed, Donaghy has been willing to tarnish the reputations of his fellow referees. His ultimate goal is to destroy the credibility of the league that features the best basketball players on the planet. 
The truth — the unsexy, un-fun, conspiracy-free, actually true truth — of the matter is that the NBA and the people who work for it are doing everything they can to ensure that the games are called as fairly as possible. They are reviewing their referees. They are trying to find out which ones are the best. They are changing the rules to make the game more fair whenever they are given the opportunity. 
Plenty of people are working on this, and none of them have gone to jail because they bet on games. Until Tim Donaghy completes the substantial amount of work that must be done in order to clear his own name, it’s probably best to let other people worry about how to fix the league Donaghy did so much damage to. 
Tim Donaghy has said his piece.  Thanks to innovations like FaceBook, he will always be able to get his words to people who want to read them. He will continue to talk, and that’s his right as a free man. Until Donaghy can provide some real evidence for the unsubstantiated claims he’s made about others and against the very substantial claims made against him, it’s high time to stop listening.

Thunder star Russell Westbrook scores 45, leads 25-point comeback against Jazz

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The Thunder lost three straight games, fell behind by 25 in the second half at home and looked as if they had no interest in returning to Utah.

Then, Russell Westbrook reminded everyone why he’s a superstar.

Westbrook is a singular force who can take over a game and rally his teammates – not a liability who makes everyone around him worse. His confidence and determination in the face of calamity were invaluable tonight. He kept attacking, and as shots started to fall, he and his teammates massively increased their defensive intensity.

The result: A 107-99 Game 5 win over the Jazz that looked highly improbable 21 game minutes before it ended. But Westbrook (who finished with 45 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists) singlehandedly outscored Utah in that final stretch.

The Thunder are hardly out of the woods yet. They still trail 3-2 in the series with Game 6 Friday in Utah. Teams with home-court advantage in a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6 win it just 37% of the time. Those teams win the series just 26% of the time.

But thanks to Westbrook, Paul George (34 points) and plain all-around defensive effort, Oklahoma City still has a shot. At minimum, the Thunder won’t send George into unrestricted free agency with four straight losses.

Not that Oklahoma City erased all concerns.

Rudy Gobert devoured the Thunder’s offense in the paint – at least while he could avoid the foul trouble. Utah was +7 in Gobert’s 30 minutes and -8 in the 18 minutes he sat.

The Thunder made most of their comeback with Carmelo Anthony on the bench. They continued to play well once he returned in the fourth quarter, but by then, the Jazz had lost all rhythm.

Utah – led by Jae Crowder‘s 27 points – looks deeper. Anthony was still Oklahoma City’s third-leading scorer with just seven points.

And the Thunder haven’t won in Salt Lake City this series.

But they’ll make another trip there. Considering where this game and series looked midway through the third quarter tonight, that’s a heck of an accomplishment.

Another massive third quarter lifts Rockets past Timberwolves into second round

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We saw this movie just a couple of nights before, but Rockets fans love the ending and would gladly pay to see it 12 more times this postseason.

Much like Game 4, the Rockets were down at the half in Game 5 Wednesday after having played disinterested defense and with cold shooting from their stars (James Harden and Chris Paul combined to go 3-of-16 from the floor). Minnesota was up 59-55 and had hope.

Then the third quarter the Rockets flipped the switch. Again.

Harden had 15 points in the third — matching the Timberwolves as a team. Minnesota started to double Harden and take the ball out of his hands (especially late in the shot clock), but he often moved the rock and it led to open threes — the Rockets were 6-of-10 from three in the quarter. Houston won the third 30-15, not as overwhelming as the 50-point quarter the game before but once again enough to comfortably pull away from Minnesota and cruise in for a 122-104 win.

With that, the Rockets win the series 4-1 and now await the winner of the Utah vs. Oklahoma City series.

In that series, the Rockets will need to play with more consistent focus than they brought against the Timberwolves — they can’t just play a couple of good halves in the next series and expect that to be enough. Unlike Minnesota, those teams in the next round will make Houston pay a steep price for a lack of focus.

Houston got a massive night from Clint Capela, who led the Rockets with 26 points and 15 rebounds, running the rim hard in transition and making plays inside while the rest of the Rockets launched threes over the top.

Harden finished with 24 points and 12 assists, and Eric Gordon had 19 off the bench in the win.

Minnesota had 23 points from Karl-Anthony Towns and 17 from an energized Jeff Teague.

For the Timberwolves, a team with elite young talent, this was a glimpse of what it will take to reach the heights they envision. This was a good step — the franchise’s first trip to the playoffs since 2004 is not to be diminished. It matters. But there are higher levels this team can attain. Defensively they have to be better, offensively they need to feed Towns more and play to their strengths better. It’s a work in progress.

Houston just showed them where they want to be.

Hawks, coach Mike Budenholzer agree to part ways

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This was expected.

It was pretty obvious Mike Budenholzer didn’t want to stick around and lose a lot of games with the Atlanta Hawks as they rebuild the next few years, especially after he had been stripped of his GM powers. Budenholzer went well down the road with the Phoenix Suns about their open coaching position before thinking better of it. Since then he has set up a meeting with the Knicks about their coaching vacancy, a job he reportedly wants badly.

At this point there was no need for the Hawks and Budenholzer to continue their sham marriage, so they have agreed to amicably separate, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and since confirmed by the Hawks.

Budenholzer said this to Wojnarowski of ESPN:

“I am grateful for the five years that I spent as coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and will always cherish the incredible contributions, commitment and accomplishments of the players that I was fortunate enough to work with here,” Budenholzer told ESPN on Wednesday night. “From ownership to management, support staff to the community, I’ll look back with great pride on what we were able to achieve together with the Hawks.”

For Budenholzer, the long-time Spurs assistant and a strong Xs and Os coach, look for him to both push for the Knicks job and be in the running if/when the Milwaukee Bucks job opens up whenever their season ends. In both cases he’s a fit — those are teams that need a culture and system reset, and Budenholzer proved he can bring that to Atlanta (that was a good team before they let Al Horford and Paul Millsap walk for nothing).

With Atlanta, they likely will turn to a top assistant coach who will get a chance to develop young players on that team (and not cost Atlanta as much as an established coach). Stephen Silas of the Hornets is a rumored name, but there are others.

LeBron James overrules controversial finish with game-winning 3-pointer (video)

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LeBron James‘ turnover with the game tied late looked like a bad call. LeBron’s block of Victor Oladipo on the ensuing possession looked like a goaltend.

Did the Cavaliers get robbed of a crucial possession? Did the Pacers get robbed of two go-ahead points?

LeBron nullified those questions with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 98-95 win and a 3-2 series lead. The game-winner capped a great game by LeBron (44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) and moves the Cavs to the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

The odds are even better with LeBron. LeBron has won 11 straight closeout games, nine of them on the road. He’ll have another opportunity Friday with Game 6 in Indiana.