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Middle Kingdom Previews - Please Take Care Oldster: Pacers, Bobcats, Hawks

If a meaningless game is played in the forest and no one is there to see it, how many Knicks will get injured?

It's been quite a regular season here in the Kingdom - we laughed a little, cried a little, learned a little Chinese, and broke down the game of some little kittens (they didn't make the playoffs, by the way).

The Knicks still have some business to handle in the next three games - and I'm using the word "some" very loosely here. The opening-round series with the Celtics is all but assured, so start collecting every green thing you own for the ritual bonfire.

That's not to say that the Knicks don't have a truly monumental task left to accomplish. They are looking to do what no Knick team has done in the past 40 years or so - get healthy going into the playoffs. Impossible? I'm not gonna BS you here; it probably is. Still, it's the only thing that matters in these next three games.

How can they pull it off? The Chinese, as they have so often done throughout history, provided the perfect motto, courtesy of an escalator handrail warning sign in the Dongsishitiao Subway Station: Please Take Care Oldster. The Knicks have a lot of oldsters, and they need a lot of care. Caring for the oldsters must be the Knicks primary area of concern until the start of the playoffs. PTCO, Knicks!

To the previews!

Sun., April 14 - Indiana Pacers

Chinese name: 步行者 (bu-xing-zhe) Lit. "walkers" (or "biters", if you're from Woodbury #WalkingDeadHumor)

Knicks-Pacers: A Rivalry Reborn! Atlantic Champs vs. Central Champs!

Sounds like a hot ticket, right? Maybe in a couple of weeks - hopefully in a couple of weeks - but not today, my friends. The Knicks' magic number for clinching the second seed is down to 1, which means any positive result in any game, from either team, will be enough for the Knicks to clinch. At this point a win against the Bobcats or Hawks is just as good as a win against the Pacers.

Should the Knicks lose all three games, they could still clinch with a Pacers loss. Let's check their remaining schedule.

Sure, they could beat the Knicks in MSG, and then beat the Celtics in Boston, since Boston too has nothing to play for. But they are definitely losing at home to the 76ers in the last game of the season. Here's how it's gonna go down: Andrew Bynum is going to shock the world by suiting up for the Sixers final game, on the road, no less. He's going to dominate the Pacers - 30 points, 20 rebounds - win the game single-highhandedly, and then after the final buzzer he's going to find the camera CSN Philadelphia live feed, highjack the nearest mic, and scream: "I don't owe you &#%@, Philadelphia! Were you not entertained? WERE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED???" Then he'll go off and sign a big-money deal with Orlando, or Barcelona, or Xinjiang, or wherever. Good for Bynum, good for the Knicks.

So don't worry about this game, Knicks fans. Don't worry, Mike Woodson. Just PLEASE TAKE CARE OLDSTER!

Mon., April 15 (老婆,祝你结婚纪念快乐!) - @Charlotte Bobcats

Chinese name: 山猫 (shan-mao) Lit. "mountain cats"

I'm going to pull a Bill-Simmons "non-sequitur into a rambling plan to improve the NBA" move here.

As I'm sure you know, the Bobcats are owned by Michael Jordan. This was supposed to be a great move for Charlotte, and the NBA as a whole. But watching Jordan stumble through Small Market Owner Ennui has been sad for everyone involved. Even Jordan haters like myself hate seeing the guy moping about courtside, with the disinterested look and barely-legal trophy wife. I'm sure many of you are familiar with Tom Ziller & Friends' excellent coverage of Sacramento's fight to wrestle the Kings away from the greasy Maloof brothers over at Sactown Royalty. Well when I look at Jordan, with the model at his side, rocking the jeans and Express-For-Men shirt, I see less of the greatest basketball player of all-time and more of the Maloof Brother from Another Mother. It's beneath him.

All of this brings me to Kobe Bryant. I love Kobe...and by "love", I mean "hate, but with a hatred so much more uplifting than the hatred I feel for Jordan." Both of these dudes are/were generational athletes, relentless competitors and Grade-A assholes, but they've diverged dramatically in the way they've shown their true face to the world. Jordan's off-the-court persona was always so contrived, so soulless, so market-driven that it disturbed me even as a child. Witnessing his career - the games and the commercials - not only made me hate Michael Jordan, it kind of made me hate society for having produced Michael Jordan in the first place. Kobe, on the other hand, has matured into crotchety old national treasure who struts about the country, flaunting his asshole bona fides like some magnificent, shit-eating peacock.

Not to mention, Kobe's emotional, pain-med-addled response to his recent Achilles tear was, dare I say it, inspiring. The guy bared his soul. I respect that. Had the same thing happened to Jordan, in the era of social media, I suspect we'd see personal Twitter posts along the lines of: "MJ and Gatorade proudly present new Achilles Recovery Red Berry Flavor."

I would never argue that Kobe is a better player than Jordan, but I have enjoyed watching him interact with other human beings more than I ever have with MJ. So I say these two need each other to raise the ownership game in the Southeast Division. When Kobe is ready to retire, the NBA should give him a piece of the Wizards or Hawks. Let Kobe and Jordan duke it out as owners the way they never could as players. Owner Kobe would bring out the best in owner Jordan, and the league would be better for it. Get it done, Stern!

As for the Knicks-Bobcats game itself...who cares? PLEASE TAKE CARE OLDSTER!

Wed., April 17 - Atlanta Hawks

Chinese name: 老鹰 (lao-ying) Lit. "old hawks"

I suppose this game could mean something...if the Knicks lose all their games and the Pacers win all theirs. This might even be a first-round preview...if the Knicks lose out, Indiana wins out, Chicago wins out, the Hawks lose to the Raptors and win this game.

Eh, screw it. PTCO, people, PTCO. And thank you, P&T'ers, for letting me take you on this long, strange trip through the Middle Kingdom this season. Go Knicks!

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