Tuesday July 29th, 2008

As he rode down the elevator in Brooklyn's federal courthouse, John Lauro, lead attorney for disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, had an ominous message for the handful of reporters who had stuffed themselves in with him.

"This story," said Lauro, "is not over."

You know what? I'm starting to believe him.

Donaghy is gone. Tiny Minded Tim will spend the next 12 months cooling his heels in a Florida prison and finish the final three months of his sentence in a halfway house. He will have to pay the NBA roughly $217,000 to cover the cost of its internal investigation and he will come out of prison a pariah. He will probably write a book, most of which will be (science) fiction, but some of which will be Canseco-esque facts.

Will Scott Foster be in the book? Probably. Will his involvement be fact or fiction? That I don't know.

The NBA does. It has to know. It has to know whether or not Foster, a 14-year veteran referee who reportedly had 134 phone conversations with Donaghy (none lasting longer than two minutes and many coming before and after Donaghy spoke with his gambling cohort Thomas Martino) during the 2006-07 season, was fixing games.

The problem is, the NBA isn't saying much of anything on the topic.

''The government had complete access to Tim Donaghy's phone records and thoroughly investigated this matter, including conducting an interview of referee Scott Foster,'' the league said in a statement. ''The government has said that they have found no evidence of criminal conduct aside from that of Mr. Donaghy.''

Huh?

What exactly, then, were Foster and Donaghy talking about? Granted, the fact that some of those phone calls probably went unanswered or straight to voicemail has to be taken into consideration. But some of those calls went through, and unless Donaghy and Foster were The Young and The Restless junkies calling to discuss the happenings in Genoa City, something -- most likely basketball related -- was talked about. And the NBA, which claimed to have spent more than $1 million in an internal investigation, passes the buck to the government?

Come on.

Maybe Donaghy was using Foster. By all accounts, Foster was his only real friend in the NBA and therefore the only referee willing to take his calls. Maybe Donaghy called Foster, pumped him for information and then called Martino.

It's possible that Foster was duped. But he needs to say he was duped. David Stern made a point of pledging to be "completely transparent" about all things referees after the Donaghy scandal came to light and before the first accusation supported by evidence is swept under the rug.

The league needs to do the right thing. Let Foster do an interview. Let him explain his relationship with Donaghy and tell the world what the calls were all about. It's not a crime to be friends with a guy. Will there be people who don't believe him? Sure. But those people weren't going to clear Foster anyway. Foster is going to be talking to the people who are still willing to give the NBA the benefit of the doubt, and still willing to believe that Donaghy was a degenerate gambler who slipped through the cracks.

Those people are out there. But their numbers grow smaller by the day.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.