Disgraced ref claims NBA match fixing - Yao a possible victim
Updated: 2008-06-12 10:59

NEW YORK - Lawyers for disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy claim that other referees altered the results of playoff games in 2002 and 2005 in a letter filed on Tuesday.

Donaghy faces up to 33 months in prison in a July 14 sentencing after a felony conviction for betting on games and taking cash payoffs from gamblers.

In this April 10, 2007 file photo, NBA official Tim Donaghy talks with another official during a timeout in a basketball between the Washington Wizards and New Jersey Nets in Washington, D.C. A letter filed Tuesday, June 10, 2008, in the Brooklyn borough of New York, by a lawyer for Donaghy in his federal gambling case alleges his fellow refs broke league rules by routinely fraternizing with players, coaches and team management and the inappropriate relationships influenced the outcomes of games. [Agencies]

But the letter alleging a deeper NBA match-fixing scheme came from Donaghy's attorneys to US District Court here in hopes of having Donaghy's sentence reduced by showing cooperation with a federal investigation into the matter.

"He's rehashing a variety of things that have been given to the US Attorney and the FBI, fully investigated and are baseless," NBA commissioner David Stern said. "Mr. Donaghy is the only one that is guilty of a crime."

The letter appears to make reference to a 2005 first-round series in which Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy had complained that Chinese star center Yao Ming had been targeted by referees for foul calls against Dallas.

No teams were mentioned in the letter but details mentioned in the letter match those surrounding the Mavericks-Rockets series.

"Team 3 lost the first two games in the series and Team 3's owner complained to NBA officials," the letter said. "Team 3's owner alleged that referees were letting a Team 4 player get away with illegal screens."

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban complained after the Rockets won the first two games, with the unnamed player thought to be Yao, and Dallas rallied to win the series in seven games.

"NBA Executive Y told Referee Supervisor Z that the referees for that game were to enforce the screening rules strictly against that Team 4 player. Referee Supervisor Z informed the referees about his instructions. As an alternate referee for that game, Tim also received these instructions."

Van Gundy, who was fined $100,000 for hinting at wrongdoing by referees, said that a referee working the games had told him about the NBA plan, with Donaghy's letter claiming that Supervisor Z contacted the coach.

Another part of the letter details a 2002 incident where Donaghy says two referees known as "company men" wanted to stretch a playoff series to a seventh game.

In the situation, Donaghy says the team that could have advanced with a sixth-game triumph had two players ejected in a Game 6 loss and eventually dropped the series in seven games.

Donaghy also claims team executives and the league conspire to keep referees from calling too many fouls upon star players, forcing them to the bench or to be ejected, because NBA officials felt that would "hurt ticket sales and television ratings".

Stern said he was not concerned about damage to the NBA's reputation.

"Why should I be worried? Every time a convicted felon says something, you're going to say to me, 'Am I worried?'" Stern said.

"I'm unconcerned. I think what is going to happen is we are going to learn what we have been telling you. We have been as open and transparent as we can."

In the letter, Donaghy said a referee who ejected a star player in the first quarter of a game in 2000 received a private reprimand for doing so.

Donaghy also alleges that referees have relationships with players, coaches and even team executives in violation of NBA contracts.

"Tim described one referee's use of a team's practice facility to exercise and another's frequent tennis matches with a team's coach," the letter states.

The letter is a response to an NBA claim that Donaghy must pay $1 million to the league as restitution for the cost of the league's investigation into the scandal that undermined the validity of game results.

"He's a desperate man and he will make whatever allegation he can at the most propitious time to manipulate the process," Stern said. "We have no doubt that Mr. Donaghy is the only one here that's guilty of criminal activity."