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New York Knicks staying grounded

Tyson Chandler hopes he and the red-hot Knicks can take a page from his former team's playbook. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

NEW YORK -- Tyson Chandler, who has a championship ring socked away among his most prized possessions, has been trying to drive home a point to his New York Knicks teammates during their early-season run of success.

Enjoy every victory.

"There's a lot of players in this organization that have not had a lot of success," Chandler said. "It comes from winning some big games, overcoming little obstacles and putting into people's minds that it can happen. You have to believe and you have to learn to be mentally strong."

Chandler has found himself often referring back to his championship season with the Dallas Mavericks since the Knicks started training camp.

And while it can be dangerous to talk big and feel a sense of accomplishment before May -- much less before Christmas -- Chandler is convinced that Mavericks team emerged to become champions because of the way they bonded and grew throughout the 2010-11 season.

That's why he has been pushing his teammates to place value on games such as Tuesday's in Brooklyn. The Nets are struggling, they have lost four straight games and center Brook Lopez is questionable with a foot injury that has kept him out almost two weeks.

But last time these teams played -- the rescheduled opener that took place two weeks ago -- the Nets celebrated an overtime win over their cross-town rival in a game that felt more like June than late November.

Jay-Z, in a tweet that quickly became famous, wrote "the city is under new management."

The Knicks are on the heels of winning three of four in a five-night stretch to take over the best record in the Eastern Conference at 15-5, a run that included a 20-point win in Miami without leading scorer Carmelo Anthony.

That went down as "one of those little obstacles" Chandler is repeatedly talking to teammates about. Getting a win at Barclays Center, where the Knicks very well could find themselves playing playoff games in the spring, is also on that list.

"It's important to know you can beat a team, even if it is just the regular season," Chandler said. "It is important to take something from each win."

The Knicks are riding a bit of a high right now, and not just because of the recent big win over the Heat. New York is shooting the 3-pointer at an alarming rate through 20 games into the season, getting 34.7 percent of their points from 3-pointers. They're making 11.8 of them per game and they're taking 29.4 of them per game.

If those numbers somehow held for the rest of the season -- and it doesn't take an analytic wizard to suggest they might not keep it up -- all of them would set NBA records.

That's why other veterans like Jason Kidd are trying to keep the impressionable Knicks players in check when all anyone can talk about is how the Knicks haven't been in first place this late in the season since 1994.

"This is all the dress rehearsal right now," Kidd said. "We haven't done much but have a few good performances. Getting big wins early does feel good but there's a trap you can fall into [by] feeling good about yourselves."

That said, the Knicks do have a lot to feel good about. Since Mike Woodson took over as coach last March and started focusing on defense -- the Knicks are currently 12th in the league in defensive efficiency -- they are 33-11 in the regular season. Only the Spurs, at 41-7, have a better record during that span.

They also have proven to be strong at Madison Square Garden, boasting the league's only undefeated home record at 8-0. Currently, they've played the second-fewest home games in the league, a trend that is about to reverse as they start a six-game homestand after Tuesday's game across the East River in Brooklyn.

Chandler believes all of this means good times are ahead in New York.

"I said from the start of training camp we've got all the things we need to be a contender," Chandler said. "With the team in Dallas, we started to believe as the season went along.

"We are too."