LOS ANGELES - About 30 minutes ago, veteran referee Dick Bavetta strolled across the Staples Center court here at the NBA Finals, stopping briefly to make small talk with a few reporters. Bavetta - one of the three officials who worked the infamous Game 6 - drew tonight's assignment for Game 5 of the NBA Finals. And for obvious reasons, he looked pretty stressed, almost sheepish. Former referee Hue Hollins early last week said that the FBI inquired about Bavetta - and whether there were any indications he influenced the outcome of games - during their probe of the Tim Donaghy betting scandal.
Bavetta must feel like he's under the microscope. I don't know how he is going to officiate with a clear head tonight.
Still, that's what you do. You go to work.
What to believe?
Being down here when Donaghy's Game 6 allegations surfaced has enabled me to seek opinions from colleagues from other newspapers and cable outlets around the country, many of whom have covered the NBA for decades and were here for Game 6. The sentiment has been almost universal: (1) Game 6 was the worst officiated postseason game in decades; (2) that fourth-quarter was particularly ugly; (3) Bavetta, Bob Delaney and Ted Bernhardt just had terrible nights.
I haven't spoken with anyone (I would trust) who believes any of the three refs had an agenda or were involved in some sort of league-inspired conspiracy to extend the series. I will say it again and again. Unless Donaghy and his attorneys provide some serious evidence, I'm not buying the conspiracy theories. Among other things, David Stern is much too smart and has too much integrity to place his sport in that type of jeopardy.
Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who is the Laker's big man's coach, has been working with Pau Gasol, trying to get the lanky forward/center to better establish his "core." Kareem wants Gasol to utilize the strength in his hips, ostensibly to keep him from being pushed around so much