LOS ANGELES For an NBA player, it was the kind of loss that can take years to get over. Now the Sacramento Kings are dealing with it all over again.
A foul discrepancy so lopsided they couldn't help but wonder if they were being cheated. And this week, six years later, accusations that, in fact, they were.
On the verge of playing for a championship they would have been favored to win, the Kings lost Game 6 of the Western Conference finals to the Los Angeles Lakers, 106-102. Los Angeles shot 27 free throws in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 of its final 18 points, to even the series.
Former referee Tim Donaghy alleged in court papers filed this week that two referees, known as "company men," purposely ignored personal fouls and called "made-up fouls on Team 5 in order to give additional free-throw opportunities for Team 6."
NBA commissioner David Stern and Kings owners Gavin and Joe Maloof have rejected the claims from Donaghy, who has pleaded guilty to betting on games he officiated and taking cash payments from gamblers.
But Doug Christie, remembering how his teammates felt after the game, said he still believes they might be true."What's been in the dark comes to the light, and the truth can squash a lot of things. And so if this is the truth, then all of a sudden now it adds validity to things people were thinking, things that our teammates and I'm sure the coaching staffs and the Maloofs were thinking at that particular time," Christie said.
MAYOR FIRST UP: Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels will be the first witness to testify on Monday when the city's lawsuit seeking to keep the SuperSonics from leaving for Oklahoma City goes to trial. Nickels is expected to testify about the role the basketball team plays in the cultural and civic life of Seattle. Paul Lawrence, a lawyer for the city, said Nickels will be followed on the stand Monday by former Seattle Center director Virginia Anderson, KeyArena manager Jyo Singh and, if there's time, Sonics owner Clay Bennett. The trial is being heard by U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman, who must decide whether to force the Sonics to play their home games in KeyArena for the next two seasons, as called for in the team's lease, or let them move to Oklahoma City.
RATINGS DIP: Game 4 of the NBA finals on Thursday night had an 8.7 rating on ABC, down from a 9.2 for Game 3 on Tuesday night. The network said Friday's ratings averaged 13,762,000 viewers and 9,851,000 households. Through four broadcasts, the 2008 NBA finals are averaging an 8.8 rating, up 42 percent over last year's 6.2.
HEAT HIRE FIZDALE: The Miami Heat hired David Fizdale as an assistant coach Friday, bringing the 34-year-old back to where he began his NBA career. Fizdale was an assistant in the Heat video room during the 1997-98 season starting in almost the same position that new Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra did 13 years ago. He spent the past five seasons as an assistant with Golden State and Atlanta.