Akin to calling a foul several seconds after it was committed, reading and reviewing this book is a little late on my part admittedly. To me, Tim Donaghy's "Personal Foul" was well worth the time as well as the wait. While the majority of you have probably already received the general intel of Donaghy's methodologies as well as intentions, my review will focus specifically on any and all material related to your Boston Celtics. After all, this is a Celtics blog and there were a few tidbits of green colored references in Donaghy's tome. This will be the first installment of a series of upcoming posts.
In Chapter 5, entitled "The Players' League," Donaghy delves into the details of certain players are officiated differently. Clearly this shouldn't be a shocking revelation to any NBA fan, but I'm sure many of us never thought there would be a day that a referee would actually admit to it, let alone describe it. Donaghy discusses how officials dealt with Kevin Garnett (albeit when he played in Minnesota, but his histrionics are still practiced here in Boston) on pages 62 and 63:
At least one superstar player in the league engaged in outrageous conduct that left many referees scratching their heads. Kevin Garnett is one of the more vocal and provocative players on the court. During his years of dominance with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Garnett was known to be particularly fond of using the n-word when addressing teammates and opposing players. It was a common occurrence, one I witnessed many times, for Garnett to shout the expletive at the top of his lungs while running up and down the court.
"Give me the f*cking ball! That n*gger can't f*cking guard me!" he'd shout.
Throughout the game, Garnett spewed a continual barrage of the word so loudly that he could be clearly heard 20 rows up in the stands.
Now, boys will be boys, and we were all men on the court, but the NBA promotes a fan-friendly atmosphere in the arenas and a decision had to be made. One particular fall at our annual preseason referee camp, the referees in attendance raised the issue and debated whether a player's use of the n-word should generate a technical foul. After considerable and rancorous discussion, it was decided that if a player yelled "motherf*cker" there would be no technical foul. However, the use of the n-word during game action would result in a quick technical.
Despite the decision, many refs chose to ignore the rule, not wanting to limit Garnett's enthusiastic style of play. When it came to Kevin Garnett, referees either loved him or hated him; there was no middle ground.
Anyone who has been to a Celtics game (or any game that KG has played in) and has sat relatively close to the floor can definitely attest to this. He's a nutbag out there. He incessantly talks junk to everyone and everything and headbutts stanchions as a pre-game ritual. Kendrick Perkins has even gone on record to say that KG is a psychopath. Now, whether you are offended or not by his aggressive vocabulary on the court is completely your right.
I just found it fascinating that the NBA's officials created a special underground "KG Rule" even though it clearly wasn't enforced all that much. Besides, KG isn't the only one cussing as often as Antoine Walker used to jack up threes. The point by Donaghy was to show how referees clearly had their biases towards certain players and officiated them as such, rules be damned.
Later on in Chapter 10, entitled "How I Picked the Games," Donaghy describes how he was issued a mandate from his supervisor, Jim Wishmier, to crack down on KG's penchant for for traveling.
January 1, 2007
Minnesota at Charlotte
This was a New Year's Day game and I was in Charlotte for a matchup between the Bobcats and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Before the game, I spoke with my group supervisor, Jim Wishmier. Jim mentioned that Minnesota's star forward Kevin Garnett had been getting away with a lot of traveling violations and that no one was paying attention to his footwork. Jim expected us to keep an eye on Garnett and to start enforcing the rule.
I worked the game with referees Joe Forte and Marc Davis, two veteran officials who weren't afraid to take on a superstar player. Prior to the game we specifically discussed Jim Wishmier's comments and decided to watch Garnett closely and rein him in on traveling violations.
In addition to the anticipated crackdown on Garnett, I liked the way Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff had his squad playing high-energy basketball most nights. I called Tommy and told him to bet Charlotte.
The Bobcats played well early but fell apart during the second half, getting outscored 34-18 in the fourth quarter. Garnett played exceptionally well for Minnesota, while Charlotte's players were arguing amongst themselves all night. Much of the angst was directed at the Bobcats' Adam Morrison, who took several off-balanced, ill-advised shots down the stretch in what had been a fairly tight contest.
Minnesota kept its composure and pulled out the road win 102-96. It was a loss for me, Tommy, and Ba-Ba, and there were no apples coming my way.
The investigators once again expressed amazement at the seemingly subtle factors I used to make the pick, albeit a losing pick. I reminded them that we often received directives from supervisory staff to key in on certain players, enforce certain rules, and generally change the dynamics of a game. The experience and strength of an officiating crew was also a critical factor, especially when it came to interpreting those directives. It was all rather uncomplicated, but the Minnesota-Charlotte game reinforced the fact that there was no such thing as a guaranteed winning pick. Still, the inside information was reliable enough that I was right on the money seven on eight times out of 10.
This is just one of several games that Donaghy describes his reasoning for making such a pick. It's disconcerting to think that referee supervisors would instruct officials to watch out for one particular player that is repeatedly "getting away with" one particular violation. I suppose the better way to approach it would be to say that there is a lot of traveling going on recently, and it needs to be resolved. Either way, this is pure fodder for the referee cynics out there that have claimed for years that star players get star treatment.
Coming up in part II of the series: Donaghy reveals in his opinion, his top five list of "the real assholes in the NBA-the kind of selfish, profane, self-absorbed spoiled brats who the referees just couldn't stand."
Here's a little teaser: 4 of Donaghy's 5 played for the Celtics at some point.