DETROIT - The NBA isn't fixed. Anyone who believes to the contrary must then assume the natural next step of believing in the existence of a multilayered fraud meant to deliberately deceive the general public.

If you're certain that the NBA is nothing more than a conspiracy-cloaked, gambling-shadowed scam, there is no alternative but to walk away from the product and never watch another second - or else you're a willing accomplice to a criminal act.

But those who see nothing but grassy knolls on the hardwood won't venture to such extremes.

Walk away from Kobe and LeBron? Are you kidding?

There must be an easier way.

There is. They simply will look the other way.

That's what has happened in the aftermath of the Tim Donaghy referee scandal.

The once-imprisoned corrupt referee hasn't decimated the NBA's appeal with his confessions of officiating impropriety and allegations of a league directive steering the outcome of playoff games.

The general ambivalence actually might soon push the NBA to the unthinkable in professional sports - the first sports league to openly embrace some form of legalized betting. Commissioner David Stern alluded to the possibility in a recent Sports Illustrated interview. Stern made no promises and admitted that he personally still believed that gambling risks compromising the integrity of the competition.

But Stern is also a realist. He knows that pro leagues demand new revenue streams to push profit margins, and the NBA cannot ignore the possibilities of getting its own significant slice of a multi-billion dollar pie that, outside of Nevada and a few other states, remains an underground operation.

Gambling isn't going anywhere, so why not use it to your advantage?

Donaghy has become a hero to those who have long suspected that some referees hold grudges against some players while granting special privileges to others. But that's hardly a news flash. Donaghy isn't saying anything that anyone with an ounce of common sense couldn't already figure out, but it's an illogical stretch to believe the league is creating great players.

Did anyone consider that just maybe great players earn that "special consideration" because of their immense talent?

It's always easier finding a scapegoat.

There are those in Detroit forever adamant that there was a league-directed mandate to punish Rasheed Wallace for his on-court insolence, ultimately costing the Pistons another extended championship run. The NBA is flawed, making it no different than any other competition where human emotion can sometimes sway the judgment of those entrusted with regulating the competition without bias.

It's nonsense to believe the league is rigged, an excuse to justify why your favorite team lost. It doesn't matter that the players can't shoot mid-range jumpers or that the coach freezes in the final minutes or that the front office screwed up high draft picks. Blame the ref. Blame the league. Blame some hidden agenda that exists only in the cobwebbed recesses of your own mind.

Donaghy is a snake. He's pitching a book and that requires throwing people under the bus for the sake of commerce.

But who would have guessed when this first broke 2 years ago that his actions might make it easier for the NBA to eventually gamble on getting a piece of the gambling action?