Jazz brass backed the NBA on Wednesday, refusing to give credibility to allegations from disgraced ex-referee Tim Donaghy that the league dictates preferential star treatment and that the fix was in for a 2002 playoff series.
Donaghy, who faces up to 33 months in prison when sentenced July 14 on felony charges of receiving cash from gamblers and betting on NBA games himself, reportedly made the claims to federal law enforcement officials.
They become public via a filing from his lawyer this week at U.S. District Court in New York.
The assertions were vehemently denied on Tuesday by NBA commissioner David Stern, who suggested they're the product of a desperate felon hoping to diminish his pending sentence.
"He (Stern) uses bigger words than I do," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said Wednesday, "but I would agree with everything that he said."
That includes a charge from Donaghy that a 2002 best-of-seven postseason series matching circumstances of one between the
Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings was manipulated by two referees who made calls (or did not make calls) in a manner designed to force a revenue-generating seventh game.
"I don't subscribe to the 'lasting to seven games.' I don't subscribe to any of that stuff," O'Connor said. "What I look at is each game and how it's played, and I think the referees work their tail off to get situations right.
"Do we think they always get right? No. But, look: If you had a federal investigation and it turned up nothing else, and you've one guy commenting about something to save his bacon a little bit I'm with the commissioner."
As for Donaghy's assertion that referees were discouraged by top NBA executives from calling technical fouls on certain star players to prevent negative impact on ticket sales and television ratings, neither O'Connor nor Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was buying it.
"That's always been questioned in this league as long as I've been in it," said Sloan, a frequent critic of so-called "star treatment."
"But who's to say? You know, it's always been a situation where great players are going to look like they're getting an advantage. That's just the way it is."
But, Sloan added when pressed, "I don't think it's conveyed down the line."
Said O'Connor: "I don't think there's a directive from on top.
"I think the really good players know how to get calls, and that's why they're really good players."
Asked if he'd want Jazz stars like Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer to be beneficiaries of such treatment, O'Connor indicated otherwise.
"I want it to be refereed fairly, because then I think the better players win. And I think if they're the better players, we'll win," the Jazz GM said. "That's a trite answer, but that's honestly the way I feel. I'd rather get the right calls than get the star calls, and I think that's where we're going to, or trying to get to."
Both O'Connor and Sloan also suggested they did not feel the Jazz were victims of small-market bias from the league and/or its referees.
"That's the 'conspiracy theory,"' O'Connor said. "I really want to believe that whistle is blown on each individual call."
"My feelings get hurt sometimes because they don't do everything I want," Sloan added. "But if they did like I'd want, they'd call a technical on the other team whenever they got the basketball."
Sloan has been tagged with his share of technical fouls during 20 seasons as the Jazz's head coach and has had his share of run-ins with referees including one physical incident in 2003 that resulted in a seven-game suspension.
But he indicated Wednesday that he doesn't believe the NBA or its refs conspire against him.
"I have tremendous respect for the league and what they've always done, even in our situation with technicals and all that stuff," Sloan said. "Yeah, we get 'em. But they handle it. They handle it well.
"When you look at it from an unselfish standpoint, they do a great job," he added. "Like I said, I've always been selfish. I want our team to win, so obviously I get too carried away sometimes and get a little too involved. But overall, when it's all said and done, you walk away and you're upset a little bit but I think they have a difficult job to do to begin with."
Much harder, Sloan suggested, than most will ever know.
"Of course, you can see a rerun on television," the Jazz coach said."It makes you a lot smarter," Sloan added, "than the guy that's out there trying to call it in an instinctive way."