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Former NBA ref Tim Donaghy says league will tell refs to get to Game 6

We have arrived at NBA conspiracy season. Between the lottery, which the Celtics won a couple weeks ago, and the playoffs, everyone gets a little worked up during these weeks of the NBA season.

Game 4 of the NBA Finals looked pretty sketchy from an officiating standpoint, but the refereeing was just so generally awful and incompetent that it didn’t really favor one team in any way.

But the fact that the NBA has dealt with conspiracies and scandals that compromise the competitive integrity of the league in the past makes any sketchy refereeing look suspicious.

So when Tim Donaghy, the embodiment of one of those scandals, goes on sports talk radio and says the referees will be trying to sway the game one way, it’s not great for optics.

Donaghy, a former NBA referee who went to federal prison for betting on games that he officiated during the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons, went on San Francisco sports radio station 1050 KNBR this morning and said the refs will have had meetings with the league.

In these meetings, as Donaghy told KNBR, officials are told certain results would be more favorable for the league.

“I’ve been in the situation before, I’ve been in these meetings, I’ve been in these sessions. I’ve walked out of them with my crew and kind of laughed thinking to ourselves, ‘Wow, they really want the Lakers,’ or ‘They want the Spurs, or the Cleveland Cavaliers to win tonight.’”

The NBA Finals generate millions upon millions of dollars for the NBA and they have an interest in making as much money as possible, so they’d obviously prefer the series lasting longer.

In other cases (like the infamous Donaghy-reffed Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals) it seems certain teams get the benefit of the doubt.

Donaghy continued,

“It’s no secret we’ve walked out of these sessions laughing because David Stern was on TV one time saying the best NBA Finals would be the Lakers vs. the Lakers. It’s in the back of their mind at all times what’s best for the league. Dick Bavetta came out on occasions and said he was put on Game 6’s to make sure Game 7’s occurred.”

Referees have a vested interest in making the NBA (their employer) very happy,

“It’s a form of entertainment, and if you’re going to advance as an NBA referee and make that $75 to $100,000 a year refereeing in the playoffs, you’re going to give the league what they want because they’re grading you, they’re advancing you and they’re paying you.”

Donaghy also went on to say that he thinks the Warriors will win anyways, regardless of the officiating, but it’s still pretty wild to hear coming from the dude who manipulated NBA games himself.

It’s hard to deny the legitimacy of what Donaghy is saying. Of course the NBA wants the series to go beyond 5 games and these referees are employees of that very same NBA, so they may be swayed (directly or indirectly) to prolong the series.

It’s unclear if that means the league is straight up FIXED or not, but it will definitely be worth watching the referees tonight.