Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: NBA Fixed? Why Not?

Today's Calls: David Stern vs. Tim Donaghy, Kobe Bryant vs. The Big Three, Sasha Vujacic vs. Leon Powe, Albert Pujols vs. The DL and More! ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: Did the NBA conspire with refs to fix games? ↵

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↵Some might call that allegation by Tim Donaghy, revealed yesterday, to be a "bombshell." ↵

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↵Others might say: "And...?" ↵

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↵For years, the popular perception -- primarily motivated by what fans have seen with their own eyes -- has been that the NBA manipulates its drama through its on-court vessel, the referees. ↵

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↵It makes sense: The refs absolutely control a game's outcome. Just look at, say, Game 6 of the 2002 West finals between the Lakers and Kings, which has long been a target for conspiracy theorists. (That is also speculated to be the game Donaghy referred to the court filing that started this.) Down 3-2, the Lakers won Game 6 after scoring 16 of their last 18 points from the line, then dramatically went on to win Game 7. ↵

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↵David Stern says he is "unconcerned." What else could he say? (Note that he didn't offer a flat denial.) ↵

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↵On its face, Stern might be unconcerned because Donaghy's credibility is tainted enough that the league can discredit him. (I would argue that facing the FBI, Donaghy had no reason NOT to tell the truth.) ↵

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↵But I think he should be unconcerned because many fans already thought that the NBA was fixing games with the refs -- for years -- yet still follow the game. Fans have accepted it as part of the game. And you have to admit that the Lakers and Kings going seven produced one of the most memorable playoff series of the last 20 years. ↵

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↵As a marketing machine, the NBA knows what it is doing. ↵

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↵NBA Finals: Back in L.A., the Lakers finally beat the Celtics. I wouldn't say it's a "new series" yet; I'm not even sure that will be the case if the Lakers win Game 4. ↵

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↵But the Lakers finally got a win, bumping and grinding their way to a victory that was probably closer than Lakers fans expected it to be. ↵

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↵Kobe's 36 points were the highlight (as were Sasha Vujacic's three 3s), but equally important were KG and Paul Pierce choking; they combined for 8/35 FG shooting, a mere 5 FT attempts and 6 TO. ↵

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↵You get the sense that both teams are fully capable of winning on the road (even if they haven't yet), making for an intriguing remaining four games. ↵
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↵Injury to Watch: Rajon Rondo's ankle. Injury recovery is the dominant theme of The Finals so far (cough, Pierce), but this one merits watching heading into Thursday's Game 4. (All the more interesting: Why get the report from mainstream media when you can read about it directly from Rondo on his blog?) ↵

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↵MLB Instant History: The Tigers may have snapped the White Sox's seven-game win streak, but Detroit still is 10 games behind Chicago in the standings. ... Injury Watch: Albert Pujols' strained left calf. ... Fantasy Watch: Dustin McGowan (9 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 7 K) and C.C. Sabathia ended a four-game winless streak with a CG shutout. ... Mets lose fifth straight: Willie Randolph's hold on his job has to be tenuous right now, right? ... Dontrelle Willis is back in Class A. ↵

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↵Blame for Big Brown's Belmont failure is coalescing, and it looks like jockey Kent Desormeaux is the fall guy. ↵

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↵Cocky trainer Rick Dutrow and presumably anyone he can get to agree with him would like everyone to think Desormeaux is the reason the horse lost. (Interestingly, despite playing the blame game, Dutrow shifted and said the decision to switch jockeys rests with co-owner Michael Iavarone.) ↵

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↵NFL: Hmm ... Is Donovan McNabb's shoulder tendinitis foreshadowing? ↵

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↵Name to Know: David Villa. The Spanish soccer star scored three times to lead Spain past Russia in Euro 2008 group play. ("Group D" must undoubtedly be named for "David.") ↵

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↵Sports Media: In case you haven't seen it, this is the Curt Schilling blog post about the NBA Finals that everyone is talking about. ↵

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↵(Memo to athletes: See? You don't even have to be blogging about your own sport; all you have to do is blog with a little openness. What is amazing is that in one "Emperor's New Clothes"-style post, Schilling provided more honest NBA analysis than 95 percent of NBA columnists out there. I'd love to see an NBA player do the same thing for baseball.) ↵

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↵The Last Word: If Matt Hayes wants a mention in my column, he obviously understands the fastest way to it. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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