Carmelo Anthony was joking and laughing with some teammates, while other Knicks were punting and throwing basketballs into the Madison Square Garden stands for rookies Travis Wear and Cleanthony Early to chase and bring back.

The Knicks weren't letting their 5-25 spoil their moods the day before Christmas. Of course they would be in even better spirits if their record was better, but Anthony said he doesn't feel like the Knicks are out if it yet.

"It feels like it's Christmas," Anthony said after Wednesday's practice. "There's no need to be uptight and upset at this point.

"The way I look at it, it's December. We still have a long season to go but we have to start stringing some games together. We can still say it's still early in the season and we still have 52 games left but if we don't start stringing some games together, then the season will be longer and longer."

It will be a long haul, though. The Knicks are 8 ½ games out of the last playoff spot. But all the Knicks, losers of 15-of-16 and five straight, want for Christmas is a win.

They open up the NBA's five-game schedule tomorrow with a noon tip against the Wizards. After Sunday's loss in Toronto, Anthony said it would be good to get away and have some time off to clear his head. He said it worked.

"For me it was just a matter of having a day to not just even be around it and be around family, and trying to get another different energy rather than the losing energy," Anthony said. "Get away from it for a day and then come back , and go through practice and feel good about ourselves again."

Anthony, who missed last year's Christmas Day 29-point loss to Derek Fisher and the Thunder, said his left-knee issue won't keep him out of tomorrow's game.

Amar'e Stoudemire said he would return after missing the past two games due to "recovery days." J.R. Smith, however, said he probably would miss his eighth straight game with a small tear of his left plantar fascia. He went through practice, but still has difficulty planting.

"We want to win," Anthony said. "Regardless of how we do it, we want to win. We want to come out here and try to win tomorrow. If you don't have the motivation to come out here and play on Christmas here at the Garden, to kick Christmas off in the first game, then I don't know what motivates you."

Fisher, the former Laker and Thunder guard, has played in 11 Christmas Day games. He had four points in Oklahoma City's win over the Knicks at the Garden last year.

A five-time champion as a player, Fisher has never experienced losing like this. But he remains undaunted in his approach or his belief that the Knicks will turn this around.

"Winning seems like it's so far removed from where we are, but it's really not," Fisher said. "I think it's easy for us to forget that. When you only see the success part of people's journey you forget all these days that they experienced before their success.

"Before you get into a position where you have succeeded you have failed, you have made mistakes. The ones that are winners, that are successful are able to kind of still keep their chin up and kind of work through this. Other people give up. We're talking about not giving up and becoming a winner. Even though we aren't that now, we will be if we don't give up on the process."

Buzzer beaters

Team president Phil Jackson attended the practice, but Fisher said he didn't address the team. "He hasn't said too much to the team directly, a couple of times here or there," Fisher said. "He didn't offer much today. His presence sometimes is enough."