• The dysfunction of the NBA's lottery system has become a story of league-wide importance. Setting the concept of tanking aside for a moment, teams in certain positions are systemically incentivized to lose. That, as Tom Ziller of SB Nation notes while revisiting the many problems of the NBA lottery system, is a problem. But it's not one without a simple, pragmatic solution. Cue Ziller:
Fast forward three weeks. Say the Hawks need one last win to edge the Knicks for the final playoff spot in the East. If the Hawks win, they pick No. 15 and face the Pacers in a blowout series that (given we're talking about the Atlanta Hawks) nets the team $1.5 million or so in gate revenue from two home playoff games. If the Hawks lose, the Knicks get to be the sacrificial lamb and the Hawks likely pick No. 10 or 11 in the draft.
If the NBA ever has a team purposely miss the playoffs on the final day of the season for draft purposes, it will be a P.R. nightmare. It could theoretically happen next month. This is a potential issue of huge import.
The easy fix: as above, expand the picks chosen by lottery. But say the top 10 or even top 14 picks are determined by the hopper. That actually adds losing incentive to a team with a Hawksian decision to make: by missing the playoffs, there's a greater chance of getting an even higher pick, while the No. 8 seed is guaranteed to pick No. 15 or 16.
So you need to go one further to head that off: you need to add playoff teams to the lottery. They don't need big odds. Just odds similar enough to those in the back of the lottery to remove that particular losing incentive. And by adding another 16 teams to the derby, you necessarily decrease the odds for the worst teams. A win-win!
• DeMarcus Cousins is more productive and efficient than ever ... and fouling more often than any 30-plus minute player in the NBA this season.
• The beauty of the podcast: Be a fly on the wall as Zach Lowe and Kevin Arnovitz -- two of the sharpest hoops writers working -- talk ball.
• There is truly no NBA arena quite like the Barclays Center, with its wealth of unique amenities shelled within a curvy bronze exterior. Yet even within that defined standard, Andrew Keh of the New York Times discovered one particular feature at Barclays that stands apart: A small, windowless room made specifically for quiet meditation:
The meditation room counts essentially as an asterisk in the long list of promises that Forest City Ratner, the project’s developer, made to the borough after years of tense negotiations and bitter disputes over the 22-acre parcel of land near Downtown Brooklyn.
In the end, Forest City got the land, and the arena, thanks in large part to $305 million in public subsidies. In exchange, the developer promised jobs, affordable housing and $100 million for a rebuilt rail yard. Much of that has yet to materialize.
... The meditation room was the brainchild of the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, 83, a Brooklyn pastor who has long been one of Atlantic Yards’ most ardent supporters.
At one point, Mr. Daughtry had dreamed of constructing an atrium for a chapel inside the stadium. That never happened; he said he had been told that the room could not be dedicated to a particular denomination because the project had used public money.
"A lot of people don't actually know what happened," Miller said. "I didn't get a chance to say my peace. I'll leave it at that."
Glad we cleared that up.
• Thursday provided a rare showcase game for Rockets reserve center Omer Asik, who was thrust into starting role due to Dwight Howard's strained (yes, strained) ankle. Red 94's Rob Dover documented the proceedings and returns:
Since coming back from his knee injury [Asik] has looked tentative and uncoordinated, but tonight (after shaking off the rust in an opening stint where he was thoroughly outplayed by Dieng) he showed signs of significant improvement. What was most encouraging was that he seemed comfortable receiving the ball just inside the dotted line in the paint – much further out than his regular comfort zone. Several times tonight he had the ball in this area and was able to take the ball to the basket, either finishing or getting fouled. Even at his best last year this was not something he was capable of doing consistently, and the further he can extend his finishing range around the basket the more valuable he becomes.