Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Donaghy Scandal Continues To Damage The NBA's Credibility

Yesterday, I wrote a post regarding the NBA hiring a private investigator a year ago to look into referee Tim Donaghy's gambling habits. One of the most potentially damaging aspects of this incident is not whether the NBA knew of Donaghy's problems, but when they knew. Obviously they had some idea that there was a problem before the regular season started.

I believe that we can assume the NBA was watching Donaghy for the entire season(or longer), and that they were keeping a close eye on any game that he officiated. If that's the case, then why did they continue to allow him to referee games, including the playoffs, when the numbers relating to his games showed an obvious bias?

What bias you ask? Check out the numbers from gambling expert RJ Bell, president of PreGame.com:

"Over the last two seasons (reportedly the focus of the FBIs investigation into this matter), the games refereed by Tim Donaghy scored more points than Las Vegas expected over 57 percent of the time (79 of 138 games). The odds of that happening randomly are 19 to 1.

Premise #1: The more fouls a referee calls, the more he affects the game.

Premise #2: There is an absolute correlation between the number of fouls a referee calls in an NBA game and the number of points scored by the teams. (The logic being that fouls result in free throws, which stop the clock and add points).

Conclusion: An NBA ref who intended to illicitly influence a game would do so by calling more fouls, and thus his games would be higher scoring than average.

Not only have Tim Donaghys games the last two seasons been higher scoring than average, they have been so to a degree that would happen naturally only quite rarely. Which means it can be stated fairly that Tim Donaghys on-court behavior the last two seasons has an over 95% probability of being abnormal!

Maybe Tim Donaghy has always called lots of fouls, some may suggest. In the two years prior to the two years the FBI is investigating, Tim Donaghys games scored more points than Las Vegas expected only 44% of the time!

Assuming 44% "over" is Donaghy's natrual tendency, the odds of being "over" 57% for two full seasons are about 1000-1 against!"

Bell is putting this detailed summary together with the statistics that are readily available to him, so imagine what the NBA concluded with the information that they had gathered.

Either they didn't go very deep, or they didn't like what they found and hoped that this would never be made public. Unfortunately I have to go with the latter because it's been reported that Donaghy was forced into retirement due to these allegations. It appears that the NBA wanted to keep this quiet, and now that it's a full-blown scandal they're going to have a hard time convincing people that what they discovered over the course of last season wasn't enough to pull Donaghy off of the court.

NBA Commissioner David Stern is holding a press conference at 11AM this morning, and it will be interesting to see if he discloses exactly when the NBA became aware of Donaghy's problems. Personally, I think that's more important with regard to the NBA's image than Donaghy's own actions.

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