SECAUCUS, N.J. NBA commissioner David Stern wants to have a talk with Tim Donaghy after the disgraced referee is sentenced in July for taking cash payoffs from gamblers and betting on games he officiated.
"We just thought to close it out, if he has things that he'd like to say," Stern said Tuesday at his annual news conference before the NBA Draft Lottery. "We thought it would be in the interest of completeness that we would conduct that interview."
Stern said the league has already asked Donaghy's lawyer, John F. Lauro, for a sit down and been rebuffed.
"We want to make sure we understand everything and we want to make sure we take steps to correct everything," Stern said.
In a letter filed in federal court on Monday, Lauro said Donaghy told investigators in the NBA betting probe that relationships among officials, coaches and players "affected the outcome of games.
Stern dismissed the comments.
"It seems that in an effort to cushion whatever sentence is coming, Mr. Donaghy's lawyer has taken on the U.S. attorney's office, the FBI and the NBA," Stern said. "I think that all of the facts are out and are going to come out and those assertions will prove to be baseless."
Stern denied the league pressured the government to cut short its investigation.
"Not accurate," Stern said. "Untruthful."
He was just as certain Donaghy was the only NBA official taking payoffs and betting on games he officiated. He confirmed once again that other NBA officials violated NBA rules by betting in casinos.
"We're certain as we can be that he is the only official on our staff that was committing felonies," Stern said, noting he felt sympathy for Donaghy who suffered compulsive gambling problems and depression, according to court papers.
The commissioner said the league plans to release a review of its policies regarding gambling and its referees after Donaghy is sentenced on July 14. It was prepared by former federal prosecutor Lawrence B. Pedowitz.
Stern also scoffed at a statement from Donaghy's lawyer that his client's actions led to league reform.
Commenting on officiating in general, Stern said the referees are doing the best job possible in a league with great athletes.
"The highlight I think of my career is when two teams called to complain about the officiating and one team won," Stern said. "We inspire emotion. We are asking our referees to decide things on the run in the middle of a very fast paced game and sometimes even (Jeff) Van Gundy gets something wrong."
The former Knicks and Rockets coach is a television analyst for ABC and ESPN.
Stern also defended the current draft lottery system that determines the order for the draft.
Last year, Memphis had the worst record and ended up with the No. 4 pick. Boston, which had the second worst record, got the No. 5 spot.
"I don't think we will have a process that will satisfy everybody," Stern said. "Whatever we do there is going to be some view that it is not good enough. I think that means it is good enough. It is impossible to have a good thing that makes everyone happy."Stern said Boston, which played Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against Detroit on Tuesday night, proved teams can turn things around in a year.
TV PLAYOFF RATINGS UP: The NBA playoffs are drawing higher television ratings than they did last season. The 36 games on TNT through the first two rounds have averaged a 2.4 rating, up 14 percent from last year. Ratings are up 27 percent on ESPN, averaging a 2.8 over 16 games. Nine games on ABC have averaged a 3.7, a 28 percent increase.
NUGGETS' KARL HAS SURGERY: The Denver Nuggets say coach George Karl has undergone left hip replacement surgery. The team says the operation Tuesday lasted two hours. Karl is expected to resume walking without a cane in a week to 10 days.Karl was treated for prostrate cancer in 2005.
SPURS DELAYED: The San Antonio Spurs' departure from New Orleans after winning Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals was delayed several hours after their plane had mechanical problems, the team said Tuesday. The team could not find hotel rooms in the city, so the players had to sleep on the plane, team spokesman Cliff Puchalski said. "We slept on the plane as much as you can sleep," Puchalski said. "We tried to keep some normal semblance of order."The Spurs eliminated the Hornets 91-82 in Game 7 Monday night, then went straight to Los Angeles, where they play the Lakers in Game 1 of the conference finals today
CAVS OWNER FOCUSED ON WINNING: LeBron James could be playing elsewhere in three years. New York. Brooklyn. Los Angeles. Miami. Anywhere, really. It's possible he never leaves home, too. Although some anxious Cleveland fans are worrying about their megastar's long-term future, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert isn't sweating it. He's got James for two more seasons. Maybe more. "We have no reason to doubt LeBron James or any player and their commitment to be with the Cavaliers based on the organization we built and are building," Gilbert said Tuesday, two days after the Cavs were eliminated from the playoffs with a Game 7 loss in Boston. "It (James leaving) is something I don't worry about it, because we do the right things. We're trying to build a top-notch franchise in every way."