GREENBURGH, N.Y.-- Just call them the Zen Knicks.
They do not dwell in the past and they do not look ahead to the future. They are in the moment.
At least, that’s Tom Thibodeau’s assessment of his team.
“We’re just focusing in on the daily improvement and one thing doesn't carry over to another, so each game is separate,” Thibodeau said following practice Wednesday at the MSG Training Facility in Greenburgh, N.Y.
The Knicks returned home after a 3-2 Western trip and are closing in on the quarter mark of their season with a 9-9 record which has them ninth in the Eastern Conference. They are a half-game behind seventh-place Philadelphia (9-8) and eighth-place Toronto (9-8), and one full game ahead of the 10th place Nets (8-10).
Without outright acknowledging that they are in a race, Thibodeau and the Knicks appear to realize that they are in an enviable — but not concrete — position.
“We're coming up on the quarter point, so you sort of have an idea,” Thibodeau said “It's a long season and so where you are today, you may not be at the halfway point, three quarter point. So just keep taking it day by day [and] focus on the improvement.”
One area in which the Knicks showed growth on the road trip was their ability to play together. They opened the trip with wins over Utah (118-111) and Denver (106-103) on back-to-back nights, and ended it with a 129-119 win over Oklahoma City, who had come into the Garden eight days earlier and waltzed away with 145-135 triumph.
“It was good to be above .500 on the road trip,” said Julius Randle, who was among a number of players who experienced flu-like symptoms during the trip.
Still, for as satisfying as the road trip was, to a man the Knicks are cognizant that one road trip does not make a season.
“We also don't [want to] be satisfied. We know a lot of guys went through a lot of stuff, but we don't [want to] be like, 'OK, we're satisfied,' ” Isaiah Hartenstein said. “We [want to] keep building, making sure that we keep building off this, now focus on Portland. Whatever [happened] in the past, we can watch film, take what's good, take what's bad, but then really just keep focusing on the next team.”
Added Thibodeau: “Lock into what goes into winning each and every day. Focus on your improvement. And ask yourself how can you help the team? It's not an individual thing. It's a team thing. So how do we make our team defense better? How do we make our team offense better? How do we help create shots for each other? Like, those things are important.”
Notes & quotes: Thibodeau said Mitchell Robinson (sore knee), Cam Reddish (groin), and Derrick Rose (toe) were all active participants in the practice session, but added the team would check with the trio Friday to see if they would be able to play against the Trail Blazers at the Garden . . . When asked if he had a prediction for the Giants-Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game, Randle said he thought the Dallas “defense might pitch a shutout.” . . ..Hartenstein said he has been playing all season with an inflamed Achilles.