David Stern, call your office.
For a number of years now, when anything bad, embarrassing, or downright criminal occurred in the National Basketball Association, I concluded the discussion with: "David Stern, call your office."
Right now, I don't think Stern needs to call his office. He's probably curled up under his desk with a bottle of single-malt scotch.
The brewing Tim Donaghy scandal has the potential to bring down the entire league like a smart missile. This may just be the modern day Black Sox Scandal.
Of course, it depends entirely upon how far it all reaches, how many people are involved and how egregious the fixed outcomes of certain games are to the sensibilities of your typical NBA fan.
Maybe it was just one guy who fell in deep with the wrong people.
Let's hope, for Stern's sake, that "not" is not an option. If this spreads, then Stern has got to go. Period. I don't care how well he's led the league over the last 20 years. I don't care if it's "not his fault" that a crooked ref slipped past league security and compromised the league's integrity.
None of that matters. What will be left is a league under a permanent black cloud of suspicion from sports fans that are more jaded and cynical than ever -- $8 beers and $30 parking will do that to you. To have Stern remain in command would send an unmistakable signal that it's "business as usual."
To have Stern still in office would invite a whole new round of "What is Stern doing to cover all this up?" conspiracy questions. Lord knows, there's enough suspicion that David is already the league puppet master, like the guy behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz.
No, if the scandal widens, you're going to have to burn the NBA's remaining public perception to the ground and start over. Given the damage done recently by the Malice at the Palace, All-Star Weekend shenanigans in Las Vegas, Joey Crawford, the leaving the bench rule and now THIS, the good news is that there's not much left to raze.
A new Commish would be able to ride into town and change how the league does business. Challenge the orthodoxy, and re-assert some core values. If nothing else, you might even trick some fans into thinking that it will all start changing under the "new guy."
The NBA is in crisis because of little things, not the big picture. Overall, the talent of today's players is breathtaking. The level of play - when teams choose to ascend to it - is spectacular. Somehow, the league needs to redouble its efforts to reward teams that emulate the flowing styles of the Suns and Mavs now, or the Kings from earlier this decade.
If that takes fouling out scores of players every night for a whole season until they adjust to the new "no means no" policy of grabbing, hand-checking and bodying, then so be it. Nobody said this change would be easy.
The league also needs to aggressively sell the union on a plan that does not guarantee contracts beyond a certain number of years. It will be a tough sell, but it is vital to win back public perception. Nobody begrudges LeBron James making a mint. What rankles fans is known turds like Steve Francis getting a $34 buyout just to get lost. That has to stop. Fans would rather Steve Nash get $34 million more, and Francis get nothing.
It wouldn't hurt to distance the league from the music and entertainment industry. The NFL and MLB aren't nearly as in bed with them as the NBA, and it seems to me they still turn a tidy profit. Reaching out to a kid who likes Jay-Z for his records, but is ambivalent about the Nets front-court situation does nothing to build a fan base.
Take the millions of sports fans who live and die with the NCAA Tournament in March, and make your league a super-sized, hyper-intense version of the same product.
And, oh yeah, time to scrap the East-West seeding in the playoffs. Keeping this is stupid, and counter-productive. It punishes good teams based on geography. When Duke is 30-1 and UNC is 29-2 heading into the tournament, they don't make them 1-2 seeds in the same region. So why should the NBA do that? It's insane.
Take a risk, have a vision, and realize that your league is three-quarters of the way to crawling back into the tape-delayed Finals hole it lived in prior to the 1980's.
In a perverse way, this scandal might be the best thing to happen to the NBA. It might just be the wake up call for the league start re-thinking everything.
Steve is a native Washingtonian and has worked in sports talk radio for the last 11 years. He worked at WTEM in 1993 anchoring Team Tickers before he took a full time job with national radio network One-on-One Sports.
A graduate of UC Santa Barbara, Steve has worked for WFNZ in Charlotte where his afternoon show was named "Best Radio Show." Steve continues to serve as a sports personality for WLZR in Milwaukee and does fill-in hosting for Fox Sports Radio.