So far, these aren't the same old Knicks

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NEW YORK – Like any new general manager, Scott Perry came in with some goals he set out to accomplish.

But for the Perry, 54, a successful season for the New York Knicks won’t necessarily be reflected in wins and losses.

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His players didn’t get that memo, apparently.

With more than a third of the season out of the way, the Knicks (16-14) would end a four-year playoff drought if the season ended today.

And the last time they were above-.500 after 30 games? 

That would be the 2012-13 season, which was the last time they appeared in the postseason.

And their first-round opponent, if the playoffs began today, would be the Celtics (26-8), who they host tonight at Madison Square Garden.

Boston comes in looking to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time since dropping the first two games of the season.

“We have to come out from the get-go and put our foot on their necks early,” said Celtics guard Marcus Smart. “This is another good team that if we don’t come out ready to play, we’ll have the same outcome as [Wednesday’s loss to Miami]. So, we just have to come out ready.”

New York comes into tonight’s with the eighth-best record in the East but is separated by just one game from the fourth-place Indiana Pacers and only a half-game ahead of the outside, looking-in Miami Heat.

“The big thing coming into the door that I wanted to establish was a culture, an environment of a team that was going to compete and play hard, fight and defend every single practice and game,” Perry told NBC Sports Boston. “And offensively, play the right way, play as a unit, play for one another. Those are the kinds of things that are broad philosophies that I want this team and organization to be about.”

This season, the Knicks are shooting 47.2 percent from the field, which ranks seventh in the NBA. They also rank in the top 10 in made field goals (40.1, ninth); offensive rebound percentage (.260, fourth) and assists (23.0, 10th) per game.

It’s not bad.

But no one, certainly not Perry, is disillusioned to believe that this Knicks team as it is constructed right now, is a title contender.

He understands all too well that becoming a team that can not just contend but does so over an extended period of time, does not happen overnight and can’t involve taking shortcuts.

“So, whatever that was going to yield in terms of a record this year would be just that,” Perry said. “I didn’t have any idea [when accepting the GM job] of how many wins or how few wins. I just looked at the point of instituting what I believe are winning staples. It’s important to becoming a winning organization that allows you to grow the right way, to build and add more people and talent to the mix that you have an environment conducive to winning.”

The franchise believes rookie Frank Ntilikina is their point guard of the future but made sure he was surrounded by solid, battle-tested veterans Jarrett Jack and Ramon Sessions.

“They are helping his learning curve,” Perry said. “Jarrett is probably the more vocal person and really has excellent leadership skills. He’s really setting that example for Frank, and Ramon is really professional in how he prepares, stays after, comes early to work on his game even when he’s not playing much. They both have been willing to impart knowledge on Frank on a daily basis whether it be practice or during games.”

Ntilikina missed some time early in the season with an ankle injury but has shown promise in his time on the floor.

“I’m focused on basketball, and how I can make…my game be better,” he said.

Still, for the Knicks to continue their climb up the Eastern Conference standings, leading the charge will be Kristaps Porzingis.

The 7-foot-3 Porzingis is having an All-Star caliber season, averaging a career-high 25.5 points per game, which ranks eighth in the NBA, along with 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots.

“He’s been very good to work with,” Perry said. “I really respect how he goes about his work, his business, working on his game, preparing himself to play. It’s manifesting itself on the court in terms of the kind of results he has had so far.”

And the culture that Perry speaks of is one that he saw first-hand cultivated as an executive with a Detroit Pistons team that made deep playoff runs an expectation and not a goal. Perry is off to a solid start replicating that in New York.

“We got a lot of work ahead,” Perry said. “We’re not there by any stretch of the imagination yet, but we’re working towards that. The big things are to remain diligent and persistent and disciplined in that approach to putting this team together and build it so it can be sustainable. That takes time and a little bit of patience, a little extra discipline. That’s what we want.”

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