Toronto Raptors fans are crying conspiracy, claiming to be the latest victims of NBA referees. Fanning the flames even further is former referee, Tim Donaghy, who recently said in a radio broadcast that the league would prefer to see a second round matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and the Miami Heat. Donaghy, who is about as trusted as a wolf in lipstick spent 11 months in a federal prison camp after an FBI investigation into allegations of fixing games. While he is not the most trusted source for any type of information surrounding the NBA, his statements about unfair officiating practices are not beyond the realm of possibility.
Outside of Toronto, it is obvious that there would be much higher interest in the second round of the playoffs between the Nets and the Heat. All of the glitz and glamor that fans anticipate come playoff time would be under the bright lights of Brooklyn and in Miami, home to the back-to-back champion, Miami Heat. It would be a matchup between two big city markets, and a pair of team’s filled with high profile players like Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett.
The Raptors, on the other hand are a middle-of-the-pack market that has fewer nationally televised games, and lacks a true superstar. Despite their successful season, they play in a market that does not garner the national attention of other NBA teams. However, despite a number of obstacles working against them, they have been able to rally behind DeMar DeRozan, the fifth year shooting guard out of USC and become a true threat in the Eastern Conference. The team won 48 games this season, good enough to win the Atlantic division, finishing ahead of the Nets, Knicks, Celtics and 76ers.
For the Toronto Raptors to succeed and move into the second round, they will have to do so whether or not the perception of being the victims of questionable calls by NBA referees is warranted. While the officiating at times has been horrendous and downright pathetic, the Raptors will have to push through it. If the game is slanted in the direction of the Nets, the Raptors will need to shift into fifth gear to overcome the perceived disadvantage.
The NBA is a business and while the product they put on the court is entertainment, fans must not forget that it is a business just like any other—an organization built around the sole purpose of making money. If making money means matching up two of the biggest markets in the league, and giving a slight edge to a certain team, then there is always that possibility of corruption. Tim Donaghy may be spitting into the wind in this case, but to suggest that the Toronto Raptors are the victims of referees with ulterior motives is not beyond question. The irony in this case is that Donaghy, the man who has become the poster boy for referee corruption in the NBA is the one blowing the whistle.
Commentary by Johnny Caito
NY Daily News