Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Fixing of the NBA: Incriminating Numbers, Outrageous Playoff Calls . . . and Mark Cuban Exercising Restraint?!?

Some numbers on accused NBA referee Tim Donaghy are pretty close to a smoking gun.

In the two seasons in which the FBI is investigating Donaghy for allegedly fixing games for gambling purposes, Bell found that, in games when Donaghy was part of the officiating crew, NBA teams scored more points than Las Vegas expected (hitting the over) 57 percent of the time. With a league average of 49 to 51 percent, the odds of such an occurrence are 19 to 1.

When Bell analyzed the numbers from the two seasons before the two in question, he discovered that, in games Donaghy officiated, NBA teams scored more points than Vegas expected just 44 percent of the time.

Although the 13 percent difference might not seem that jarring to the casual observer, it's jaw-dropping in the world of sports gambling. Bell said the odds of a 44 percent probability happening 57 percent of the time are about 1 in 1,000.

"There's a 99.9 percent chance that these results would not have happened without an outside factor," Bell said. "Something abnormal was going on here."

And knowing that “something abnormal” was going to happen in a large number of games would likely make serious money for crooked gamblers.

And there’s this:

According to FoxSports.com, over the last two seasons, Donaghy led the NBA in technical fouls, free-throw attempts per game and foul outs per game.

If you make intentionally bogus calls, that would certainly make those numbers high. (My thinking on the technical fouls is that if you are making bad calls, you are more likely to have players and coaches go ballistic.)

(UPDATE: Since I posted, I see that the technical foul number is disputed at the least.)

For a sample of Dohaghy and the NBA’s work, view these lowlights from Game 3 of the infamous Suns-Spurs playoff series. This will give you an idea why the NBA has zero credibility with many. (Suns’ fans, you have my deepest empathy.)

Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban has weighed in . . . and has exercised amazing restraint and even expressed confidence in NBA commissioner David Stern. Given how Stern has fined him millions of dollars for criticizing NBA refereeing and how referees virtually fixed the 2006 NBA Championship by calling fouls every time a Maverick breathed on Miami Most Holy Star Dwayne Wade, the restraint is very gracious.

But I have no confidence in David Stern myself. His willful negligence has enabled NBA referees (Yes, the plural is intentional.) to fix games. There is really only one thing Stern can do to bring any reasonable hope of credibility to the NBA – resign.

Time to watch Stern’s press conference. . . .

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