Regarding Donaghy, with his actions being exposed and later his conviction, the NBA had a bad public relations problem. If there was any conspiracy present, other than fixing the games for profit, before Donaghy, I don’t believe it’s there now but only by coincidence of events that might lead a person to believe one exists. If a person believes something strongly enough, they could surely con someone else into believing it as well.
Now, I do believe there are players who are protected or the refs kind of look the other way just because of star power or veteran status of the player but only to prolong their being on the court longer. We always hear the commentators ask the question “Whose going to get that foul, the veteran or the rookie?” Who would want pay to come to the games if they saw Duncan, Shaq, Lebron or Kobe be called for the fouls they do commit and foul out before halftime. That lawyer in Miami, who sued Pop, would surely be pissed and be suing everybody.
Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.