Now that Tim Donaghy has pled guilty to two felonies and his conspirators have done the same to one apiece the NBA can breath its first sigh of relief. He didn't implicate anyone else, which is a good reason for a sigh, and there won't be a long trial hanging over their upcoming season. Before they breathe too deeply, though, they should take a look at the indictment and realize that there's still something mighty rotten in the state of Stern.
The document, helpfully posted by The Smoking Gun, spells out the details of the plot. Donaghy took cash for providing recommendations on NBA games and would receive money for each correct pick. The recommendations would be based on his knowledge of which refereeing crew was working each game and "the interactions between certain referees and certain players and team personnel." That means he could sit there and look at a game and based on the officials make a pick about which team would benefit from the assignment.
That's not good. The Association can honestly stick to their claim of Donaghy being a isolated rogue because he didn't name any other names. What they can't do, however, is continue to refer to their officials as an impartial, unassailable group that isn't prone to the same human frailties as the rest of us. If just knowing who was working each game was enough for Donaghy's scheme to work so well that he got a raise from $2,000 to $5,000 per correct pick, that means that the NBA refs aren't doing their jobs as you'd like. It means that they hold grudges, target particular players and/or coaches and call games with such predictablity that the actual on-court action is merely window dressing for the officials. Any accusation about refs being assigned to postseason games so that the outcome will be assured extra credence from now on. A player who picks up two quick fouls won't be guilty of being overeager, he'll be guilty of something long in the past that is influencing the way he's viewed by the refs. The unwritten rules that helped superstars and hindered rookies were one thing but this is far more damaging to the appearance of propriety.
With the actual Donaghy part of the proceedings out of the way, I hope that the league takes what they've learned to conduct a total audit of the officiating process. This gives them a lot of leeway to take action, change their evaluation process and improve what was already a reviled group. From bad can come good but they've got to treat it seriously and not just focus on the actions of a rogue cowboy and move on like nothing else is wrong.