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October 2, 2008
The Pedowitz Report is out: Bad day for conspiracy theorists

They opened the wound back up today, and it's not going to feel any better this time: the Pedowitz Report, the NBA's 14-month internal investigation headed by former federal prosecutor Lawrence Pedowitz, was released and found no facts to substantiate the claim by ex-referee Tim Donaghy that Game 6 of the Western Conference finals between the Kings and Lakers was fixed to ensure a Los Angeles win.

The 133-page report spent eight pages on Lakers-Kings. It was highly critical of the work of game officials Dick Bavatta, Bob Delaney and Ted Bernhardt, just as Pedowitz was during a media conference call following the release of the project, but drew a line between a bad job and a fix.

It's what the league had been saying for years. Similarly, Pedowitz backed David Stern's assertions that Donaghy was the only referee to have bet on games or supply gamblers with inside information.

There were new, mostly minor, sometimes-gossipy details regarding Game 6. Just no smoking gun.

*Several former colleagues believe Donaghy was referring to Bavetta and Delaney when he said two of the three refs were "company men" who would manipulate an outcome to please Stern. Donaghy was purposely vague and let the dark cloud hang over all three.

*An NBA review found 15 incorrect calls or non-calls those fateful hours at Staples Center, eight favoring the Lakers and seven favoring the Kings. In the fourth quarter, the most controversial time of all, the league determined that two favored the Lakers and one favored the Kings.

*Bavetta had nine mistakes in the game, five favoring the Lakers, and none in the fourth quarter. Bernhardt had six errors, four favoring the Lakers, and one in the fourth that favored the Lakers. Delaney had four misses, two for each team, and three in the fourth. Two of those favored the Lakers, including the most heated decision of all: Kobe Bryant not being called for the forearm to Mike Bibby's face.

*After the Bee's Ailene Voisin quoted Bernhardt in June as saying it was a bad game for the three-man crew but that nothing unethical had happened, "Donaghy called him and
said he was disturbed by Bernhardt's press comments," the report stated. "Bernhardt said that Donaghy then proceeded to try to lead him and put words in his mouth. He said that Donaghy was incredibly persistent and sounded like a conspiracy theorist. Bernhardt told us that Donaghy was pushing him to agree that Dick Bavetta had said Bavetta was happy to have the series go to a seventh game. Bernhardt said he told Donaghy, I'd like to help you if I could, but that's not the way it happened.'

*Ed Rush, the supervisor of officials at the time, "also told us that he thought that it had been a mistake (for which he took some responsibility) to have teamed Delaney with Bavetta in this game. While Delaney and Bavetta once had a close friendship, they had a falling out in connection with a personal matter some years before this game, and Rush felt that the poor chemistry between the two referees contributed to the crew's poor performance in this game."

In discussing the finished product with the media, or at least the finished product for now since the NBA is keeping him on retainer to come back and review the review in future seasons, Pedowitz gave several in-depth answers. Kings-Lakers was among his most exhaustive. He certainly didn't brush over the topic, and that's a good thing.

It's a long response. But for your consumption:

Question: There obviously is a great deal of interest out here in Sacramento regarding the Kings-Lakers series in 2002. You found nothing to support the Donaghy claims. Can you take us through the process on how you reached that conclusion, in hopes maybe that some people will buy into the fact that you did take a hard look at this?

Answer: Let me begin with what we've written, and I'm going to describe to you how we got there. You now have an opportunity to read what we found and what we discovered. What we did was, we talked to all of the referees that were involved, the three referees that were involved.

You'll see that the discussion of Ted Bernhardt is particularly interesting, I think, in terms of the dialogue with Donaghy. I think it's also quite relevant that we spoke to Ed Rush, who was the supervising referee at that particular game. And then we took a very good, close look at the game and the way it was refereed.

As we mentioned in there, and again, we took a hard look at this, it was clearly not a well-refereed game. There were a lot of errors. But if you look at the types of errors that were going on, Bavetta's errors were quite well balanced, there was no indication he was strongly favoring one team over another. With regard to Delaney's errors, he only had a few.

We tried to describe to you in there what the basketball operations people who looked at the refereeing of the game saw, we've tried to explain to you how a referee can always miss a call. I know you understand this: if you go to a game and you try to make calls yourself from the stands, even if you're close in, it depends on what your perspective is, where you are. These are three guys trying to referee a game where these guys are huge, incredibly fast and athletic, and it's very difficult sometimes to get the proper perspective on the calls, to be at the right angle.

Delaney and Bernhardt missed this last call involving Kobe and Mike Bibby. They were poorly positioned in terms of the angles to make that call. When I see the TV view of that, it's perfect. You can see everything. But that's where the TV angle was. It's not where the referees were. Again, we took a real close look at this.

We talked to the other referees about this particular game -- what they heard. We lay it all out for you for your evaluation. When we look at it, we come away believing that there's nothing there, that Donaghy has not laid out a valid case on this particular issue. All the referees deny they had the conversation he claimed one of them had. So we don't see it.



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