The Knicks and head coach Mike D'Antoni are happy to...

The Knicks and head coach Mike D'Antoni are happy to finally be through with March, during which they went 7-11 and played a brutal schedule. Credit: Getty Images

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Knicks were in the middle of a rare three-day stretch off, and the mood was relaxed Friday at their training facility. So after the cameras were turned off at Mike D'Antoni's courtside news briefing, a reporter tried to have a little fun with the coach.

"Hey Mike, what do you think about Derek Rose's knee?" he was asked.

But he refused to bite on the April Fool's ruse about the Bulls' best player being injured. Said D'Antoni: "I know that it's the first day of April."

Not only did he know what day it was, but he had to be greatly relieved that he was able to flip the calendar page away from March.

The Knicks went 7-11 in March after playing a brutal schedule that only once gave them more than one day off between games. The good news for fans is that the month ended with wins over Orlando and New Jersey, and that the Knicks are in striking distance of clinching a playoff berth.

With ninth-place Charlotte's 89-77 loss in Orlando on Friday night, the Knicks' magic number is now two. The Knicks could lock up a playoff berth Sunday with a win over Cleveland and a Charlotte loss to Washington.

The Knicks didn't practice at all Thursday and did only video work and some voluntary individual shooting Friday as D'Antoni looked for a way to give Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony some rest.

"Amar'e and Melo, if they can't go [practice], then it really doesn't do any good to run the other guys into the ground," he said. The team will hold a full practice Saturday.

The Knicks have seven games remaining, and next week's schedule holds opportunity: Of the Knicks' four opponents -- Cleveland and Toronto at home and Philadelphia and New Jersey away -- only the 76ers have a winning record. Of course, the Knicks are 0-3 against the Cavaliers, who have only 12 other wins after their 115-107 loss Friday night at Washington.

The final week is a brutal one as the Knicks close out the season by visiting Indiana, hosting Chicago and visiting Boston.

Notes & quotes: Jerome Jordan -- the 7-foot center whose rights the Knicks acquired last June after he was drafted at No. 44 by the Milwaukee Bucks -- will not be joining the team for the playoffs, Knicks president Donnie Walsh said. Jordan is under contract to play in Serbia and there had been some thought that he might be able to leave, but that no longer is the case. Said Walsh: "He's under contract over there and there was some idea that maybe they weren't doing the right things with him, and maybe we could get him. But I think now they're straightened out."