TrueHoop has a must-read today about the man who ran all the money in the Tim Donaghy scandal. James Battista is giving an account of the entire scandal that jives with what the rest of the co-conspirators and the FBI found…. and less with what Donaghy claims about mafia involvement and not fixing NBA games. And as far as we're concerned, as fans of the NBA… it's the fixing that we're most concerned about. Donaghy says he hasn't… the evidence suggests otherwise.
Late in the book, in a footnote, Griffin makes something of a "game, set, match" observation. Donaghy told authorities, and Battista confirms, that Donaghy and Martino used a secret code to communicate picks over the phone. "If Donaghy mentioned Martino's brother Chuck (who lived in the Philadelphia area), the pick would be the home team," the U.S. attorney explained in a letter to the judge. "If, on the other hand, Donaghy mentioned Martino's brother Johnny (who did not live in the Philadelphia area), the pick would be the visiting team."
That the three conspirators agree on this point is proof positive that the conspiracy was about games Donaghy reffed. Such a code would not work in a world where, as Donaghy alleges, the three were looking to exploit his leaguewide insight on a regular basis. This code assumes everyone knows which of the NBA's many games they're talking about.
Battista also points out that Donaghy was religious about checking with Martino, before games he reffed, to find out the point spread Battista had been able to get. That's information that would be essential for a game-fixer, but a curio otherwise.
[...] As of today, all four conspirators — Donaghy, Ruggieri, Martino and Battista — have talked in some fashion or another. Ruggieri, Martino and Battista all agree that the only picks from Donaghy that mattered were picks on games he refereed.
"Being able to control the outcomes," says Battista, "was the big reason he won his games. That was why he couldn't pick those other games."
Of course, that leaves Donaghy alone with this theory, and credibility issues.
This just makes me think Tim Donaghy fixed games. He risked the integrity of a multi-billion dollar entity because he saw a way to manipulate games for his own gain.
Did he act alone? We don't know for sure, but I sure as hell hope so. Could it happen again? Absolutely.
Take a look at the Celtics-Heat game. For about 38 minutes, the game was called loosely. Guys were allowed to play physically, some calls that could have been made, weren't. Then, late in the 4th quarter, things changed on a dime. Plays that were allowed earlier in the game were suddenly fouls. For about a four minute stretch, the game was called tight. And then, just as suddenly, things loosened up again.
Was it a conspiracy? Was it an anomaly? Was someone covering a spread, or was someone just trying to make sure the game didn't get out of control? The sad thing is, each side can make a case. And that's the NBA's problem.
The more that comes out about Donaghy, the more he is shown to be a dirty ref, and a dirty person who will say and do anything for his own personal gain. The NBA needs to look at its officiating situation and make necessary changes to protect the integrity of its league. I don't believe in vast conspiracies to fix games and the league… but the NBA needs to do a better job of not giving those who do so much ammunition.