So apparently there was an NBA scandal yesterday and the Finals made a brief appearance.
The scandal all comes down to one thing: Do you believe Tim Donaghy? (That is the lead of today's Sporting News column.)
Do you believe, as David Stern would argue, that Donaghy is a convicted felon and thus disqualified from ever telling the truth?
Or do you believe that Donaghy had no reason to lie -- and certainly no reason to lie to the federal agents who were pushing him?
Instinctually, I believe the latter -- I believe Donaghy. Because I believe my own eyes. I remember that Lakers-Kings series in 2002 and remember how most fans (at least the conspiracy buffs) were like: Cripes, this reffing looks like they're trying to rig the series.
At the time, perhaps you were laughed off by the "purists" or the mainstream media, which had a vested interest in protecting its relationship with the NBA. But evidence sure seemed to favor the conspiracy-minded.
Now there is corroboration, at least in the form of a convicted felon.
I have always believed that the league influenced the officiating -- perhaps to ensure dramatic series, but if nothing else, to protect stars and correct "mistakes" (even over-correct).
It's not a leap to hear what Donaghy had to say and say, "I believe it."
The second part of that is: If you kind of suspected that the NBA was enhancing the officiating all along, this kind of revelation is hardly shocking, let alone enough to turn you off to the game. We've been watching since 2002; you simply said: Eh, that's the way it is.
The fact is, even if the league wanted the Lakers to avoid losing in 6 to Sacto back in 02, the Lakers were the ones who gritted out the Game 7... or the Kings choked it away... or, at the extreme, the league cooked the series to ensure its biggest draw advanced to the Finals.
So: If this comes as a shock to you, you were naive. If this doesn't move at least a little (if only to confirm your conspiracy theories), you were jaded beyond help.
I don't think this harms the league at all: The Donaghy scandal broke last summer... and the league ended up with what many avid fans felt was the best season in a decade or more.
OK, so, where were we? Oh, the Lakers finally won a game? Fantastic. I'm sure the NBA made sure the refs knew that home-court advantage should mean something. (Oh shoot. There goes the conspiracies again.)
Here is the full Sporting News column from today.