Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

NBA's Stern Talks About Ref Scandal

NBA commissioner David Stern addressed the media today to talk about what the league knows about former NBA referee Tim Donaghy betting on games. This is my live commentary as it happened. 

11:04AM:  This is the first NBA press conference I've witnessed where NBA lawyer Joel Litvin is sitting in the middle seat of the first row.  Here they come.

11:05AM:  Stern wearing a blue tie.  He usually wears red.

11:06AM: The NBA is apparently not scared to take questions on this.

11:06AM: Seems like they're just talking about Donaghy.  Stern said "what we can and cannot tell you" which makes you think about how much they can say given ongoing investigations.

11:08AM: Stern is explaining how they should have noticed something like this.

11:10AM: So far Stern has said nothing the fan wants to hear.

11:11AM: Anyone watching this is asking "So why did this happen?"

11:13AM:  Nine minutes in .. still just disclaimers about how they should have noticed it.  Given how general this is so far, I'm concerned the NBA won't be able to answer the questions the fans want answered.

11:13AM: I'm surprised he's not reading from a prepared statement.

11:14AM: It's curious that he's explaining how they work and how fans should be comforted in the future with their system but he hasn't discussed the specifics of the Donaghy case.  So far, Stern gets a C-minus.

11:15AM: Stern says the system was "as good as it could be" but some people will question that especially given Donaghy's "gambling stats."

11:17AM: The Daily News report that the NBA has hired an investigator appears to be true.

11:18AM: The over/under on this press conference is 45 minutes.  I'm taking the over.

11:19 AM: They checked only the legal sports books, so obviously that's where the system failed.

11:20AM: The season had ended when the FBI contacted the NBA.  That's what my sources were telling me days ago.  This is the key statement so far, that the NBA did not cooperate with the FBI as the season was underway.

11:22AM: It's amazing the story lasted a month from the time the FBI contacted the NBA until the New York Post broke it.

11:24AM:  Stern confirmed Donaghy was betting on NBA games.  Not certain it was only games he worked but some might have been. 

11:24AM:  He also provided information to others which means that the $50,000 figure we had heard was what he had bet.  Might be just the tip of the iceberg.

11:25AM: Referee Donaghy resigned weeks before the story broke.  This is, again, a shock that it didn't come out earlier.

11:26AM: Stern says Donaghy is the only referee alleged to have bet on NBA games.

11:28AM: Stern says his obligation as Commissioner is to retain best outside advisers to tell NBA what it could have done better.

11:29AM: "Most serious and worst situation I have ever experienced" either as fan or Commissioner.

11:29AM: The fact that David Stern can do this entire thing ad lib, when he needs to be careful with his words due to the NBA investigation, is amazing.  I guess it pays to have a Commissioner who is also a lawyer.  I'm not sure the NBA could have done this, but I'm surprised that at this point they don't seem to have any information about Donaghy betting on on games he officiated.

11:31AM: Question-and-answers has begun.  I don't expect any more information to come out of the press conference. The two most important points are: 1) The FBI contacted the NBA after the season had ended. This means that the NBA didn't knowingly put him out on the floor when they were told something was going on.  2) They believe this is an isolated case.

The NBA can recover from this.  Had it been a string of referees and they had known about this while the season was going on, this could have been a mortal blow to the NBA's business.

11:34AM: No one has yet asked him a stats question regarding Donaghy ... such as Donaghy calling the most technical fouls, and having teams that played in the games he officiated go to the line the most times.

11:35AM:  I'm bringing David Stern's grade up to a B-minus because of how real he is and how honest he appears to be.  This has always been his strength.

11:37AM: Again, I'm surprised they don't have any specific information on games.  We presumed that was what had taken 2-1/2 business days.  Unless they can't say because of the FBI investigation.  But if that is the case, Stern should disclose that.

11:39AM: Checking those that have the over on this press conference, it's been going on for 35 minutes.  I set the number at 45 and I have the over.

11:40AM: No one has yet asked the Las Vegas question:  Will this hurt the NBA's chances of fielding a team in Vegas?

11:42AM: Stern is basically saying the story is over and that the media is allowing the story to "continue to escalate."  I'm not sure that's the case.

11:44AM: To his credit, Stern has said more than I thought he would say in terms of answering every single question from the reporters.  Again, I'm wondering how long it's going to take for information about specific games to be revealed.  My opinion is that if it isn't unveiled by the NBA this week there are enough informants talking to the media that it will come out in the press.  I don't think that's ideal but maybe it's not controllable.

11:50AM: Stern just looked at his watch.  I'm glad I took the over.  I won my own bet.

11:52AM: No one has asked the Donaghy stats question and why they didn't raise a red flag.

11:55AM: Before this press conference ends, Stern has to tell the press when they expect the next update to be released.  If they don't update the press, the press will update the league, and that's not good.

11:57AM: He says he would like to await the outcome of the criminal investigation.  The question is does he have to?

11:57AM: I guess I was expecting too much from the NBA here.  I thought they were reviewing all the tapes and would have some information for us.

12:00PM: Stern said it is "not common" for Las Vegas to alert the NBA on suspicious gambling activity.  Some will ask if this means the NBA isn't working closely enough with Vegas.  That being said, if everything is happening between bookies you might not necessarily notice patterns in Vegas.

12:02PM: Random spotting in the audience: Greg Shaheen, the NCAA's Senior Vice President for Basketball and Business Strategies.

12:04PM: I've got to go work on my TV coverage of this story.  Check out Power Lunch for more in-depth commentary.  To review: the way it is being described is the best the fans and the NBA could have hoped for.  But I caution you, this unfortauntely might not be it. The key piece of data to come is how many games, if any, Donaghy bet on, what those games were and if it in any way affected the course of the past two seasons.  My final grade for Stern: B,  mostly because of his honesty and the time he was willing to devote to the news conference.  I think that he could have done better if he provided more specific information, but it's possible that he wasn't legally able to fill us in as much as we might have wanted.

Questions?  Comments?