New York Knicks Can't Get Overconfident After Starting to Win Games

Ciaran GowanContributor IIIJanuary 14, 2014

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 9: Carmelo Anthony #7 and Raymond Felton #2 of the New York Knicks celebrate during the game against the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden in New York City on January 9, 2014.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The New York Knicks we remember from 2012-13 appear to be back, but despite their recent success, they can't afford to get overconfident now.

While it's been great to see them play all-around team basketball, the reality is that they're still well below .500 and have plenty of work to do to erase their nightmare start to the season.

From a fan's perspective, their form in the new year gives us plenty of reason for hope. Despite calls from even the most optimistic of fans to blow the roster up, they've stuck together and started playing the way many of us expected they would going into the season.

This is still a streaky team, however, and if we've learned anything from the last couple of years it's that New York tends to struggle to maintain success for the long run, mainly due to injuries and their reliance on inconsistent players.

Along with Carmelo Anthony playing at an elite level (which he has been all season, by the way), the keys to the Knicks' success in 2014 have been contributions from Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire, all of whom had hit some truly woeful low points earlier in the season.

Like it or not, there's no guarantee that New York will continue to get consistent contributions from these guys. Felton, for example, made headlines with his fantastic 14-assist game against the Miami Heat, but recorded just one assist and allowed 28 points from Goran Dragic just a week later in a close win over the Eric Bledsoe-less Phoenix Suns.

Even with the team winning, Melo is having to work inordinately hard for the Knicks, playing 45 minutes in that win over the Suns and not sounding too excited about having to play again the next night.

If the Knicks are going to keep this up, they're going to need contributions from everyone on the roster. A healthy Tyson Chandler and Metta World Peace would be a start, but more than anything, the return of last year's J.R. Smith would be a welcome addition.

Smith's struggles have been well-documented and as much as we want to talk about trading him or keeping him on the bench, the reason the Knicks have struggled this season is because they genuinely need his production.

Since getting benched against the Heat, Smith has certainly looked better, but is still nowhere near the highs he reached during the Knicks' run towards the end of last season.

To be fair to the Knicks, they don't exactly sound overconfident. From top to bottom, they clearly understand that they won't be cruising into the playoffs this season and that there's plenty of work to be done between now and April.

Melo is playing some of the best basketball of his career, on both ends of the floor.
Melo is playing some of the best basketball of his career, on both ends of the floor.Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Smith's antics aside, this streak has proven that this is a hard-working, tough-minded team and that mentality will serve them well moving forward.

Without wanting to look too far ahead, the Knicks' upcoming schedule looks promising. Following road games against two tough defensive teams in the Charlotte Bobcats and Indiana Pacers they start an eight-game home stand, primarily matched-up against non-playoff teams.

If they stay grounded (and healthy), things could start to look pretty good around the All-Star break. It wouldn't be particularly surprising if the Knicks were at .500 by then.

The Knicks have given us 22 solid reasons to doubt them this season, but finally appear to be locked in. And with Carmelo Anthony playing some of the best all-round basketball of his entire career, if they can get consistent contributions elsewhere, the season may be saved yet.