The Heat may have a message for the improving Knicks (40425)

It’s premature for the Knicks to overly concern themselves with where they currently stand in the Eastern Conference.

They had an excellent start to the season, beginning the week at 12-5 before facing the resurgent Charlotte Bobcats on the road last night (Wednesday). The Bobcats, guided by rookie head coach Mike Dunlap, the former St. John’s assistant, had already equaled their win total of seven games a season ago when they faced the Portland Trailblazers on Monday.

The Bobcats are led by the much-improved second-year guard Kemba Walker from the Bronx, but they aren’t a team against which the Knicks can gain a true measure as to whether they possess championship-caliber bona fides. The group the Knicks face tonight (Thursday), the Miami Heat, is the standard.

Knicks head coach Mike Woodson wanted no part of discussing the highly anticipated rematch after the Knicks defeated the Phoenix Suns 106-99 at home on Sunday.

“My thoughts aren’t even on Miami,” he said dismissively. “I gotta start preparing for Charlotte.”

In their season opener on Nov. 12, the Knicks defeated the Heat by 104-84 at the Garden, shooting a blistering 19-36 (52.8 percent) from behind the 3-point line. The caveat is that the Heat were uncharacteristically lethargic and arguably disinterested. Their atypical performance on that night can be attributed to the game being played in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Heat guard Dwyane Wade was outspoken in calling for the game to be canceled and donated his entire game check, $210,000, to aid victims of the devastating storm.

You can be certain the Knicks will see a much more enthused and engaged Heat team tonight in Miami–one that will be intent on sending a message to the emboldened Knicks that there is still a gap, even if it has somewhat narrowed, between them. Nevertheless, the Knicks collectively believe they are more equipped this season to battle the defending champions.

“I think we have the personnel to accomplish some great things this year,” said Knicks center Tyson Chandler. “We [have] great vets mixed with young players … all the things that you need to have a real deep [playoff] run.”

Tonight will provide more questions and some answers.