Donaghy scandal still hovers over NBA

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:19 PM ET

A coach gets fired, while another gets fined.

A call that could have changed the game’s outcome becomes a source of embarrassment, while a veteran coach discovers a clock malfunction.

The sure signs of spring-time basketball are in abundance, a time when the NBA’s star players begin to either re-inforce their legacy or begin to forge their reputation, which can only be achieved in the playoffs.

When Rick Adelman and the Houston Rockets parted ways, it didn’t surprise anyone given no contract extension was offered to the underrated Adelman during the season.

Whether it was Adelman or some other coach offered up as the sacrificial lamb, the coaching carousel has become as much a spring-time rite as the buzzer beater or the berating of the officials.

With so many games to be played before a champion gets crowned, so many storylines yet to be written or explored, no story has jumped out to the front page like the NBA’s decision to admit it made a mistake, a call that should have been ruled goaltending.

And when Kendrick Perkins’ put-back with the ball still residing in the basket’s cylinder was deemed a make, it would serve as the turning point in an opening-series' game won by the host Oklahoma City Thunder.

The NBA has done a lot to present a more transparent product in the wake of the whole Tim Donaghy debacle, re-arranging its officiating office, becoming more vigilant and more hands-on.

There are those within the game, voices who prefer to stay silent, who would argue the game has regressed since the explosive admission and subsequent incarceration of the defrocked official who bet on games.

In a nutshell, what they argue is that too many people in the NBA’s hierarchy have become too involved in officiating, too many people whose knowledge on how games should be called is marginal.

For the NBA to come out and say it made a mistake is not without precedent.

But it serves no purpose because that sequence cannot be replayed.

It makes one scratch their head in dewilderment, an exercise that has become quite common.

“There are numerous calls that are questionable and have been mistakes throughout a game,’’ Turner Sports analyst and one-time player Steve Smith began.

“There is a human error factor to the referees. To come back after a playoff win and say that was a mistake, that doesn’t do anything for the game and it doesn’t do anything for the (game’s) validity.

“We understand now that there is an integrity that is part of the NBA. When they admit their mistake, I think they are saying: ‘Hey, we want to keep our integrity (by) saying that we do make mistakes.’

“But it doesn’t change the ending to the game and it doesn’t really help.”

The man known as Smitty is right.

What he didn’t say, but something many are saying behind closed doors, is that the Tim Donaghy cloud still hovers over the league, whether the NBA wants to admit to it or not.

Of course mistakes will be made, shots that should drop hit iron, matchups that should be exploited are not because of poor coaching, there’s a myriad situations that could go either way.

The NBA’s current rules do not allow for instant replay to review whether a player committed goaltending.

It should and Perkins’ flagrant goaltending must serve as the catalyst for change.

The bottom line is the NBA had an opportunity to at least trigger a dialogue that would lead to something tangible.

All it did was reveal its insecurity and vulnerability.

The play in question began with a missed Russell Westbrook jumper, which followed with Perkins’ hand going through the net and then outside the rim for the tap-in.

“Although a player is permitted to touch the net while the ball is in the cylinder above the rim, Perkins also touched the ball while it was still in the cylinder which is a violation and constitutes goaltending,” the NBA said in its statement.

What the statement didn’t say is that the league is still troubled by the Donaghy fall-out.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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