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Rudy Gobert implies sports betting influences NBA officiating

Minnesota Timberwolves v Cleveland Cavaliers
Minnesota Timberwolves v Cleveland Cavaliers

Rudy Gobert was frustrated. With 27.8 seconds left and his Timberwolves down one to the Cavaliers (97-96), he got called for a loose ball foul on Cleveland's Jarrett Allen — that was Gobert's sixth foul and he was out of the game. His reaction was to make a money gesture to Scott Foster and the officiating crew.

Gobert was instantly given a technical for that on his way out the door — and it may have cost his team the game. Danilo Gallinari made the technical free throw to tie things up 97-97, nobody scored the rest of the way and the game headed to overtime, where Cleveland won.

Postgame, Gobert was asked about the gesture and admitted his timing was poor late in a tight game — but he took the idea the referees were getting paid a step further, implying sports betting impacts NBA officiating. Here's the first part of his quote, via Joe Varden and Jon Krawczynski at The Athletic.

"My reaction, which I think is truth — it's what I truly believe — even if it's the truth, it wasn't the time for me to react that way," Gobert said afterward. "I should have not done that. I cost my team the game, and obviously, they couldn't wait to give me a tech. That was bad. That was an immature reaction.”

Asked to clarify what he believes, Gobert said: "I made some mistakes. I airballed a dunk. Mistakes happen. Referees make mistakes, too. But sometimes I think it's more than mistakes. I think everyone that's in this league knows. I think it's got to get better.”

Gobert wasn't done.

"I'll bite the bullet again," Gobert said, via the Associated Press. "I'll be the bad guy. I'll take the fine, but I think it's hurting our game. I know the betting and all that is becoming bigger and bigger, but it shouldn't feel that way."

This is far from the first time Gobert alleged that NBA officials are corrupt, as Tom Haberstroh detailed at The Finder. He has a long history of being convinced NBA officiating is biased, particularly against him. It was also four years ago this week that Gobert decided to touch every microphone on the way out of the room as a poor COVID joke just before the league — and the world — shut down due to the pandemic.

The foul Gobert was frustrated about was a legitimate call — he was battling with Allen for rebounding position, and Gobert appeared to push Allen down and out of the way. Here's what the Timberwolves' coach had to say postgame, again via The Athletic.

"I thought the game was called pretty much the same way, both ways — I think both teams were a little bit frustrated, but that's basketball," said Minnesota assistant coach Micah Nori, who filled in for coach Chris Finch (illness).

That won't matter now, he has stirred the hornet's nest. The NBA is going to come down hard on Gobert for those comments. This wasn't a standard criticism of the officiating quality (which usually draws a $25,000 fine or in that ballpark). This implied bias and that officials were changing the outcome of games for money.

It brings up the ghost of Tim Donaghy, something the league has worked hard to move past. The NBA will rightly say Donaghy is a convicted felon who made unproven — actually, league officials would say disproven — accusations about bias and corruption of referees. While the NBA has taken steps to make NBA officiating more transparent, the stain of Donaghy's accusations has never completely gone away with some fans.

The NBA will not be happy this is all stirred up again.