GREENBURGH, N.Y. — When practice was done Sunday afternoon, Enes Kanter donned another uniform over his practice gear (some sort of festive combination of Santa Claus or an elf), handed out gifts to teammates and got a few back.
Lightening the mood is what Kanter does these days, which might be more important to his struggling team than his points and rebounds. The Knicks head into a showcase appearance on Christmas Day, the first game of the holiday schedule, against a Milwaukee Bucks squad that has emerged as one of the NBA’s best teams. The Knicks, for their part, are not.
They arrive with a 9-25 record, four straight losses and 11 losses in their last 13 games. The most intriguing part of their appearance is that when they last met the Bucks on Dec. 1, they pulled off a triple-overtime victory that was overshadowed by a dunk by Mario Hezonja that he followed up by stepping over Giannis Antetokounmpo. That prompted Antetokounmpo to promise revenge in the form of a punch to the groin if Hezonja does it again.
That likely won’t happen, given that Hezonja, who opted not to talk about it Sunday, didn’t get off the bench in the last game and no longer starts for the Knicks. But a little Christmas cheer from Kanter can’t hurt.
“I give out some razors, toilet paper, I give some New York subway maps. I give out some Lady Speed Sticks, my autograph,” Kanter said. “Actually, Bernard King joined me, so I gave him my crown. Nothing crazy. It was cool. Because people are very excited about the Christmas special, the kids. So we are doing everything to spread the Christmas spirit. It’s very cool, nice.
“The only thing I learned from my career, you have to stay together. You cannot fall apart. You need that one, two, three guys to bring the positive energy in the locker room. If you’re losing, everybody is shaking their head, everybody is depressed. You need that guy to bring that positive energy, keep that energy up, make people laugh. I think it’s very important to just stay together as a team. I mean, of course wins and losses are more important, but for us more important to get to the next level is how can we do a good job staying together? How can we be a better teammate? How can we make each other better 1 percent every day?”
The practice had a light feel despite the team's struggles. Former Mets GM and now special adviser Omar Minaya was on hand to visit with Knicks executives. Rookie Kevin Knox spent a long time sitting with King and listening to advice from the former Knicks star.
With Kristaps Porzingis still sidelined, possibly for the season, Knox is as close as the Knicks have to a new star.
“He’s just been teaching a lot of new things,” Knox said. “We do a lot of stuff. He watches all the games so he just gives me little tips here and there, somewhere I can expand my game. He told me he doesn’t want me to change my game, he just wants to help me get better. So I’m always open ears to of course a Hall of Famer, a legend, to help my game get better and expand it. So he’s just really been giving me tips and pointers here and there. Every time I talk to him, he’s got something new for me to learn.” Injury updates. Mitchell Robinson has progressed in his rehab, moving from an immobilization boot to an ankle brace. He will be out for the next week . . . Allonzo Trier was cleared to play on Christmas Day after missing the last seven games with a hamstring strain.