Basketball Wiretap

NBA Issues Lengthy Response To ESPN's Story On Tim Donagy

Feb 22, 2019 1:53 PM

The following is the NBA’s unabridged response to “How Former Ref Tim Donaghy Conspired to Fix NBA Games,” published by ESPN on Feb. 19, 2019:

The Tim Donaghy matter concluded over a decade ago with a full investigation by the federal government, Donaghy’s termination from the NBA, and his conviction for criminal acts. At the same time, at the request of the NBA, former prosecutor Larry Pedowitz conducted an independent investigation of Donaghy’s misconduct and issued publicly a 133-page report. This report was based on an extensive review of game data and video as well as approximately 200 interviews, thousands of pages of documents, and consultation with various gambling and data experts.

The ESPN Article attempts to revive this old story. Unfortunately, it is replete with errors, beginning with its statement that the Pedowitz Report “concluded that Donaghy, in fact, did not fix games.” The Pedowitz Report made no such conclusion. Rather, the investigation found no basis to disagree with the finding of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office that “[t]here is no evidence that Donaghy ever intentionally made a particular ruling during a game in order to increase the likelihood that his gambling pick would be correct.”  ESPN ignores this important distinction.

The new material that ESPN has assembled to support its own conclusion that Donaghy manipulated games is not strong and adds little to the existing record.

Quoted Individuals

The ESPN Article includes several quotes from named and unnamed individuals.  But these statements conflict with other evidence in the record and in many cases are based on speculation.  For example:

• ESPN quotes Phil Scala, a retired FBI agent who was part of the government’s investigation, as saying Donaghy’s claim that he did not manipulate games “never really flew with us.” But in 2009, Scala wrote a foreword to a book authored by Donaghy in which Scala characterized Donaghy’s cooperation as “unconditionally truthful” and stated that Donaghy “confess[ed] his sins, [took] full responsibility for his actions, pa[id] his debt to society, and [found] the humility to completely display his past vices.”

• ESPN quotes an anonymous “professional gambler” as claiming Donaghy told him “he liked to call an illegal defense call, right away, in the first minute.” But this claim is not accurate.  In the 274 regular season and playoff games that Donaghy officiated during the 2003-04 to 2006-07 seasons, he called illegal defense three times during the first minute of a game.

• ESPN asserts that Donaghy had “come clean” to Tommy Martino. But the actual quotes attributed to Martino do not appear to support that conclusion – they only suggest that Donaghy told Martino he could influence games, not that he had in fact done so.

Statistical Analysis

The ESPN Article relies on a statistical analysis of Donaghy’s officiating and betting line movements.  We asked ESPN to provide us with the data and assumptions underlying this analysis, but they refused.  Based on the limited information contained in the Article, we attempted to replicate ESPN’s findings – but were unable to do so.  Indeed, our analysis found no meaningful pattern of Donaghy making more calls in favor of the team that had the “heavier betting.”

Further, the original analyses conducted by the Pedowitz team were significantly more comprehensive than what ESPN appears to have done.  For example, ESPN’s work appears to include only foul calls, and not significant non-calls or violations.  It further treats all calls the same, without considering the nature or circumstances of the call – such as “take fouls” or high-impact shooting fouls.  And ESPN questionably excludes from its analysis 10 games that it deemed to be “blowouts” and roughly 50 calls that it could not attribute to a particular referee – omissions that could meaningfully alter its conclusions.

Finally, it is important to remember that a statistical analysis can only suggest a probability of an event’s occurrence – it does not itself constitute direct evidence that an event occurred.  By contrast, the Pedowitz team and the NBA supplemented statistical analysis with an assessment of the accuracy of each of Donaghy’s actual calls and non-calls in relevant games.  These analyses also did not support ESPN’s conclusions.

Anecdotal Evidence from Games

The ESPN Article cites several games officiated by Donaghy that included calls or call patterns that ESPN deemed suspicious.  However, these examples have limited value separate from a more careful video analysis, and they frequently omit material information.  For example:

• Dallas @ Seattle, 12/20/2006: ESPN cites a foul called by Donaghy against Seattle with 23 seconds remaining in the game that purportedly gave Dallas an opportunity to cover an 8-point spread.  But it omits that this was an intentional “take foul” by Seattle.  The Article also cites a streak of fouls called by Donaghy against Seattle in the same game, purportedly to favor Dallas.  But it omits that after this streak, and during the last four minutes of the game, Donaghy called two fouls against Dallas.

• Boston @ Philadelphia, 12/13/2006: ESPN cites two consecutive fouls called by Donaghy against the Sixers’ Andre Iguodala in the third quarter when the game’s score margin was near the point spread.  But it omits that between those fouls, Donaghy called a foul against the Celtics’ Paul Pierce.

• Washington @ Indiana, 3/14/2007: ESPN cites four consecutive fouls called by Donaghy against the Pacers in the fourth quarter when the game’s margin was near the point spread.  But it omits that immediately prior to this streak, Donaghy called four consecutive fouls against the Wizards.

* * *

We recognize there is strong interest in the subject of expanded sports betting and the measures sports organizations should undertake to protect integrity.  However, the ESPN Article does not add anything material to the record of what happened over a decade ago.  There is no dispute that Tim Donaghy engaged in criminal conduct as an NBA referee, costing him his job, his reputation, and for a time, his freedom.  The Pedowitz investigation focused on understanding what Donaghy did and how he did it so we would be best equipped to protect the integrity of our games going forward.

In that regard, the Pedowitz Report prompted changes to the NBA’s officiating and integrity programs.  A summary of the initiatives the NBA has adopted since 2008 is available here.  This summary provides added context that describes the NBA’s response to the Donaghy situation and our continued efforts to ensure that the NBA’s integrity programs meet the highest standards.

The Donaghy matter also underscores the need for sports leagues to have greater access to betting data from sports books to monitor gambling on their games.  We will continue our ongoing efforts to obtain this information to further expand our integrity efforts and best protect our sport in an age of legalized sports gambling.

RealGM Staff Report

Tags: NBA

James Harden: Scott Foster Has Personal Issue, He Shouldn't Officiate Our Games Anymore

Feb 22, 2019 11:08 AM

James Harden was critical of Scott Foster after Houston's 111-106 loss at the Lakers in which he fouled out and was called for four offensive fouls. Foster called only two of the fouls against Harden, but both occurred at critical times. 

"Scott Foster, man. I never really talk about officiating or anything like that, but just rude and arrogant," said Harden. "I mean, you aren't able to talk to him throughout the course of the game, and it's like, how do you build that relationship with officials? And it's not even that call [on the sixth foul]. It's just who he is on that floor.

"It's pretty frustrating. And I'm probably going to get hit [with a fine], but honestly, I don't really say anything. I'm a pretty quiet guy, to myself, but it's one of those things where you can't voice your opinion. You can't have a conversation with someone that's officiating the game. You're getting a tech. It's pretty sad."

Chris Paul also called out Foster publicly last season.

Foster was the crew chief the last time that Harden fouled out, in a Dec. 22, 2017, loss to the LA Clippers.

"It's lingering, and it's something that has to be looked at for sure," Harden said. "For sure, it's personal. For sure. I don't think he should be able to even officiate our games anymore, honestly."

Tim MacMahon/ESPN

Tags: James Harden, Houston Rockets, NBA

Dunc'd On: Buyout Signings, News Catch-Up, Questions About Contenders

Feb 22, 2019 7:30 AM

Listen to "Buyout Signings, News Catch-Up, Questions About Contenders" on Spreaker.


Click to subscribe via RSS feed or iTunes.

We look at how buyout guys like Markieff Morris and Jeremy Lin will help their new teams, catch up on the rest of the NBA news, and then discuss what most interests us about contenders going down the stretch, including how teams in the West may jockey to avoid the Warriors’ side of the bracket.

With host Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA).  And if you like this pod, please donate to support Nate and Danny at  Merchandise available at

Tags: NBA, Dunc'd On

Pelicans To Play Anthony Davis 20-25 Minutes, Will Also Reduce Jrue Holiday's Minutes

Feb 22, 2019 1:07 AM

The New Orleans Pelicans will play Anthony Davis around 20-25 minutes per game, bringing a resolution to a brewing controversy over whether they would sit Davis for the season.

Davis is currently averaging 36 minutes per game on the season. 

Danny Ferry also added that they plan to reduce Jrue Holiday's minutes as well. 

"You will see a reduction in Anthony's minutes. You'll probably see Jrue's minutes come down because his minutes have been so high all year," said Ferry. 

Brian Windhorst/ESPN

Tags: Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

Rockets Sign Chris Chiozza To 10-Day Contract

Feb 21, 2019 9:36 PM

The Houston Rockets have signed Chris Chiozza to a 10-day deal.

Chiozza averaged 13.1 points and 6.8 assists in the G League.

Adrian Wojnarowski/ESPN

Tags: Chris Chiozza, Houston Rockets, NBA, NBA Official Signing

Rockets Sign Terrence Jones To 10-Day Contract

Feb 21, 2019 9:29 PM

The Houston Rockets are signing Terrence Jones to a 10-day deal. Jones hasn't played in the NBA since the 2016-17 season.

Jones was previously drafted by the Rockets in the first-round of the 2012 draft.

Jones is averaging 23.5 points and 9.6 rebounds in the G League. 

Tim MacMahon/ESPN

Tags: Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets, NBA, NBA Official Signing

Zion Williamson Day-To-Day With Grade 1 Right Knee Sprain

Feb 21, 2019 6:16 PM

Zion Williamson has been diagnosed with a Grade 1 right knee sprain.

Williamson will be day-to-day.

Williamson suffered the injury during the opening minute of Duke's loss on Wednesday to North Carolina.

RealGM Staff Report

Tags: Zion Williamson, Duke Blue Devils, NCAA, NBA, NBA NBA Draft, NBA Draft General

NBA Formally Submits Plan To NBPA To Eliminate One-And-Done Rule

Feb 21, 2019 5:07 PM

The NBA has formally submitted a proposal to the NBPA to lower the draft-eligible age to 18 from 19.

The NBPA and its executive director, Michele Roberts, planned to review the proposal Monday at a post-All-Star weekend meeting in the Bahamas.

Adam Silver is on record saying the current 19-year-old age limit is not working for the league or college basketball.

The rule change will likely take effect by the 2022 NBA Draft, which would give most teams ample time to prepare for the effects of the change.

Jeff Zillgitt/USA Today

Tags: High School, NCAA, NBA, NBA NBA Draft, NBA Draft General, NBA CBA

Stephen Curry Feels He's Better Now Than Unanimous MVP Season In 2016

Feb 21, 2019 12:43 PM

Stephen Curry won two straight MVPs in 2015 and 2016, but he's largely been out of the conversation since the Golden State Warriors added Kevin Durant in 2016.

Curry, however, feels he's a better player than he was when he was a unanimous MVP in 2016.

“I definitely feel like I’m better than I was three years ago,” Curry said. “It’s a good feeling knowing successes I’ve had personally don’t get in the way of progress with the team, getting better and finding ways to expand your game. Experience, more maturity and being challenged in new ways definitely helps.”

Curry then paused before going through the list of players who have won three MVPs.

“How many guys have three? Michael, Bird, LeBron …”

Curry's voice trails off before the rest of the elite company is revealed: Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Moses Malone.

“If it happened, you could add me to that list,” Curry said. “Anybody who’s had one knows the feeling of what it’s like to hold that trophy up the first time, and the next time. You know how driving of a force that can be.”

Vincent Goodwill/Yahoo! Sports

Tags: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors, NBA

Thunder Were 'Especially Interested' In Drafting Khris Middleton In 2012

Feb 21, 2019 9:52 AM

The Oklahoma City Thunder were "especially interested" in drafting Khris Middleton at the 2012 NBA Draft.

The Thunder instead selected Perry Jones III at No. 28 with Middleton going 39th overall to the Detroit Pistons.

Oklahoma City traded away James Harden several months later.

Zach Lowe/ESPN

Tags: Khris Middleton, Perry Jones, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA, NBA Misc Rumor, NBA NBA Draft, NBA Draft General

Kyrie Irving Featured In Commercial For Beyond Meat
Kyrie Irving is an investor in the vegan food company.

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Goran Dragic, Derrick Jones Jr. To Make Heat Return On Thursday
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Warriors Lift Minutes Restriction For DeMarcus Cousins
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Chris Paul On Matchup WIth Rajon Rondo: 'Write The Check, Move On'
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2019 NBA All-Star Game Ratings Down 11 Percent
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Joel Embiid Out At Least One Week With Left Knee Soreness
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Heat Sign Emanuel Terry To 10-Day Contract
Emanuel Terry is averaging 16.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.33 steals, 1.11 blocks and 30.7 minutes in the G League.

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Duke-UNC Ticket Prices Hit Super Bowl Levels
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Knicks Sign John Jenkins To Two-Year Deal
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Shams Charania/The Athletic

Damian Lillard: 'I'm Not Willing To Sell Myself Out' To Win Title
Lillard stated that he wants to win a title in the right way.

Kevin Skiver/CBS Sports

Danny Ferry To 'Re-Engage' Discussion Of Resting Anthony Davis For Season
Pelicans officials want to sit Davis for the rest of the season.

Marc Stein/The New York Times

Celtics Not A Long-Term Destination For Anthony Davis
Davis recently stated that all 29 teams outside of the Pelicans are on his list of preferred destinations.

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Hawks Sign Jordan Sibert To 10-Day Contract
The Hawks now have 14 players on their roster.

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Raptors Sign Jodie Meeks To 10-Day Contract
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Suns Sign Ray Spalding To 10-Day Contract
Ray Spalding was previously on the Mavericks.

Gina Mizell/The Athletic

James Harden Characterizes Streak As Something He Has To Do To Help Rockets Win
James Harden is averaging 41.5 points on 27.3 field goal attempts during his streak.

Rachel Nichols, Tim MacMahon/ESPN

FBI Agent Regrets Involving NBA In Tim Donaghy Probe At Early Juncture
FBI agent Phil Scala questioned the truthfulness of the NBA's company line that game-fixing was impossible.

Scott Eden/ESPN

Tim Donaghy Privately Admits To Fixing NBA Games
Tim Donaghy's foul calls favored the team that was bet on more heavily 77 percent of the time.

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