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Middle Kingdom Previews - John Starks Celeb Photo Roundup: Jazz, Warriors

The Knicks will go West, young man...what do you think of that, Horace Greeley, you dead bastard!?!

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

John Starks gets around, people.

Here he is with Katie Couric and the lovely Emmy Rossum. Uhh...hey, Emmy. I noticed you like the Knicks. I like the Knicks too.

Here is Katie Couric and Emmy Rossum pointing out that, yes, it is indeed John Starks.

Oh, and a game of basketball was also played on Thursday night. I needed 12 hours or so to digest that Thunder game. After I had cried, drank a half-bottle of scotch, and cried some more, I proceeded to check the basketblog balls (or is that the other way around?) and found this gem from SI writer Chris Mannix. Apparently this was a statement game...for the Thunder?

The Thunder committed 16 turnovers, shot a pedestrian 44.3 percent from the floor and allowed J.R. Smith to light them up for 36 points. Still, Durant was able to put the game in context. He was able to see a greater truth.

"I'm happy with where we are right now," Durant told "We're starting to hit our stride. We're playing great defense, moving the ball, taking care of the ball. Of course, we want to be better. But I like where we are."

I'm a bit surprised - I thought Durant would put the game in context by saying: "We played a team missing their best player, the only guy on their team who posed a scoring threat to us went ice-cold in the 4th, we shot twice as many free throws, and we won by a single point, sooooo....."

Let the Thunder get all the press. It was the Knicks who made a statement in that game, and that statement is: "We play our absolute best against the cream of the NBA crop - Miami, San Antonio, OKC - but we rarely show up against second-tier teams - Chicago, Indiana." That's probably not the statement Knicks fans have been waiting 10 years for, but it should make for a fascinating playoffs.

The Knicks will need to bring their A game, because they're about to embark on the mother of all Western road trips. Also, there's an 80% chance the Knicks' medical staff replaced Carmelo Anthony's knee with a baked potato. (UPDATE: the Knicks' medical staff was hungry for seconds AND thirds, so they replaced Amar'e Stoudemire's right knee with mashed potatoes and his left knee with potatoes au gratin. Quite filling.)

To the previews!

Sat., March 9 - Utah Jazz

Chinese name: 爵士 (jue-shi) The Chinese phonetic pronunciation of "jazz"

I'm sure everyone reading this has, at one time or another, had a chuckle over the absurdity of the name "Utah Jazz." But I'm here to say that, if there is any people on Earth who might find that name fitting, it would be the Chinese. They have a unique perspective on what constitutes "Jazz." Up until this point, I've tried to give you a somewhat balanced perspective on this country and her people...but when it comes to their musical can I put this delicately? It's horseshit, pure and simple. Like many East Asian countries, the Chinese favor only the highest of pitch - any music with bass is considered Devil music. The only reason Avril Lavigne and the Backstreet Boys can still earn money and avoid living out of dumpsters - where they belong - is their continuing popularity over here. Celine Dion sang "My Heart Will Go On" last month on Chinese TV and it was considered the musical event of the year...and I'm talking the year 2013! So it comes as no surprise that the most popular "jazz" artist in China is none other than Kenny G. Think about it: Kenny G...Jazz...Utah. It all makes sense! Put a Chinese person in the middle of Salt Lake City and they would naturally assume that they had arrived in the home of jazz.

Okay, rant over.

The Knicks have yet to play the Jazz this season, and they're about to finish off the season series with two games in as many weeks, so it's time to learn all we can - and then quickly forget about the boys from Mormon Country.

Statistically speaking, this looks like a match-up of similar teams: top-ten offenses who like to play at a slow pace and who couldn't give two craps about defense. The Knicks have an offense that is even top-tenner than Utah's (4th vs. 9th) and are also somewhat more crap-giving on defense (16th vs. 22nd).

Aesthetically speaking, however, these teams looks very different on offense. The Jazz live in the paint - the front-court quartet of Al Jefferson (17.7 PPG), Paul Millsap (15.3 PPG), Derrick Favors (9.6 PPG) and Enes Kanter (7.1 PPG) kick in a shade under 50 points per game. These tall gentlemen make their living on offensive glass (6th in ORB%) and at the free throw line (6th in FT/FGA). That's a lot of beef...or in Kanter's case, a lot of Turkey (ethnic meat pun!).

Do the Knicks have the manpower to counter the Jazz up front? Let's start with Marcus Camby. He hasn't been playing much. I know, this is the time when I should be building the bonfire around my Mike Woodson effigy (I made the goatee out of black felt), but I can't bring myself to question the Camby caution. Sure, I can question some of his other more bizarre personnel decisions of late, but I believe taking it easy on Marcus is the right move at this point.

Which brings us to Kenyon Martin. Tyson Chandler can't play all 48 minutes, Camby can only use his foot every other Thursday, and Amar'e Stoudemire...well, looks like he's caught the knee-itis. I feel like Martin could get some minutes in this game. He earned the crap out of those minutes with his defensive effort in the Thunder game. Sure, his game is comically one-dimensional at this point, but that single dimension is sweet D ambrosia to the parched Knicks and their fans.

What will the Knicks do on offense? Hmm...considering the Jazz front line, their less-than-fearsome back-court of Randy Foye, Mo Williams and Jamaal Tinsley (still in the league???), not to mention the Jazz's lackluster three-point defense (24th in Opp 3P%), "What will the Knicks do on offense?" might be the most rhetorical question I have ever asked. THEY GON' JACK UP DEM THREEZ, BABY!

I do hope, however, that the Knicks do their homework here - the Jazz front-court isn't especially strong defensively. Al Jefferson in particular is a notoriously bad defender. The Jazz don't protect the defensive glass (24th in DRB%) and they give up way too many fouls (25th in Opp FT/FGA). If this turns into one of those games where the Knicks just camp out on the perimeter, chucking threes willy-nilly, while the Jazz get to the line repeatedly...well, it will suck.

Mon., March 11 - @ Golden State Warriors

Chinese name: 勇士 (yong-shi) "One who feels no fear"

Mother of God, here it comes: seven days, five West Conference road games, two back-to-backs (13th-14th, 17th-18th), and not a single pushover in the bunch - Warriors, Blazers, Nuggets, Clippers, Jazz.

Golden State, eh? Sounds familiar...did the Knicks play them recently?

Ah yes. I seem to recall a skinny, per-pubescent kid wandering onto the court and dropping 54 points on them. I always thought something about Stephen Curry was a Mostly it was the way he pronounced his name. After the Knicks game, I realized how he was able to dominate the Knicks. Try to stay with me on this, cuz I'm about to go full nerd:

Does anybody remember watching "Family Matters"as a kid (or as an unemployed alcoholic watching Nick at Nite)? In that show, skinny nerd Steve Urkel used to create a "cool potion", transforming himself into Stephón Urkél - who was cool because he didn't wear glasses and because he pronounced his name with accents. Somehow, before that last game at MSG, skinny nerd Steve Curry got hold of that same cool potion and transformed himself into Stéphen Cúrry - baller and ladies man extraordinaire. That's science, people.

This time around, Stéphen will have back-up in the form of David Lee. Lee has been in the news recently thanks to an academic paper written by Kirk Goldsberry. Until recently I had never heard of the guy - I had just assumed that, with a name like Kirk Goldsberry, he was a Canadian folk singer from the 70's - but the guy is a player in the basketball statistics community. Here's an article about his paper, which uses advanced logarithms and Matrix cameras to determine that David Lee is -gasp- a terrible defender. Lucky for me I wasn't at this conference; I would have been escorted off the premises by security after letting out the loudest, longest, most obnoxious "DUH" in history. What's next in the Captain Obvious series? Michael Jordan was good in the clutch? J.R. Smith is rather direct in his dealings with women?

I foresee two possible outcomes to this game: if Stéphen Cúrry shows up and drops another 50, and David Lee does some good things, the Warriors will win. If Steve Curry shows up, and the Knicks take the ball strong to the rack against David Lee, the Knicks will win. Sometimes, it's just that simple.

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