View Full Version : What really happened between ref, Rasheed

01-26-2003, 10:03 PM
What really happened between ref, Rasheed

By David Aldridge
Special to ESPN.com

The NBA has its version of what happened, and Rasheed Wallace has his, and the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. But something happened between Wallace and referee Tim Donaghy at the loading dock at the Rose Garden on Jan. 15 after the Portland Trail Blazers played the Memphis Grizzlies, and it led to Wallace being suspended by the NBA for seven games, his past most certainly part of his present.

Here's what we know, and it starts in the third quarter of Portland's win over Memphis, when official Scott Wall called a foul on Wallace with 9:45 left in the period. Wallace then tossed the ball toward Wall, who had his back turned. But Donaghy saw it, thought Wallace was throwing the ball at Wall and gave Wallace a technical foul. Wallace was angry -- "Ask him (Wall) if he thought I was throwing the ball at him!" Wallace allegedly said to Donaghy after the technical was called -- but stayed in the game and finished with a season-best 38 points, with 10 boards.

For the most part, Rasheed Wallace, right, has stayed out of trouble this season.
Then, about an hour after the game, Wallace was speaking with Memphis guard Brevin Knight and signing autographs for an acquaintance of Knight's when Wall, Donaghy and Steve Javie, the third ref, came walking past on the way to their car.

According to a source, Wallace shouted at Donaghy, "That was a bull---- call and technical, and I'm gonna get my money back," referring to the fine players receive for getting T'd up.

Donaghy then, according to the source, shouted back, "Watch the tape."

At this point, things get a little murky. Wallace then apparently took some steps toward Donaghy, and, a source says, said, "No, you watch the tape," and cursed at Donaghy. What is also unclear -- and very important, obviously -- is whether Donaghy cursed back at Wallace, or merely repeated what he'd already said, or didn't say anything. No one I spoke with disputes, though, that Wallace reacted by raising his arms -- as if to throw a punch, the league believes; with no malice toward Donaghy intended or planned, Wallace's people believe -- and moving toward Donaghy, who moved toward Wallace. Another source contends that Wallace then yelled at Donaghy, "I'm gonna kick your ass, punk-ass mother-----," and that the league viewed this as prima facie evidence of a threat against the official -- the major reason for the seven-game suspension.

The two were separated, and the referees then went to their awaiting car.

While Wallace's supporters maintain the league's investigation was rushed, the league says its reconstruction of the incident was exhaustive. The number of witnesses interviewed is believed to exceed double figures. And it is clear that Wallace's past runs-in with referees played a part in the severity of the suspension, even though he has greatly reduced the number of technicals he's received in the last two years, from 41 in 2000-01 to 27 last season to just five through his first 37 games this season. Like its decision in the Latrell Sprewell choking incident, the league also viewed the fact that time passed between the initial on-court confrontation between Wallace and Donaghy and the second confrontation as being more damaging, because Wallace had time to cool off.

But Wallace's supporters counter that this is different from Sprewell, or Marcus Camby's postgame incident with the Spurs a couple of years ago, because Wallace wasn't looking for Donaghy after the game, or lying in wait; he was talking with Knight when Donaghy and the other refs happened to walk by. In other words, there was no premeditation on Wallace's part to cause a confrontation.

And why did Golden State's Chris Mills, by way of comparison, only receive three games for trying to block the Blazers' team bus with his car after a brawl between the two teams at the end of their game Dec. 20? The same standards seem to apply. I guess the league viewed that differently because there was no actual physical contact between Mills and the Blazers' players, who were on the bus. And, I guess, because a policeman on the scene talked Mills back into his car after he got out of it and started toward the bus. (I still believe, though, that Mills' conduct was much more threatening than Wallace's -- especially considering the fact that there was a civilian in Mills' car. What would have happened if the other guy had managed to get near a Portland player? Or if Mills' car had hit the bus, with injuries resulting?)

Wallace will file an appeal of the suspension -- which also will cost him more than a million dollars in lost salary -- through the Players' Association, possibly as early as Monday. But whatever the outcome, each side has dug in. The Blazers believe this is more evidence that the league is out to get them. The league seems to believe that Portland's brought all of this upon itself with its behavior over the years. And the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.