Although New York's record reflects regression, three players have elevated their performances to keep the Knicks in the playoff race.
Without Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tim Hardaway Jr. stepping up and raising their efforts, New York would be in a desolate position with far less hope and entertainment value than the team currently possesses.
Each of those players—despite their volatility—has contributed to the marginal amount of victories the franchise has amassed this season.
In the past, Anthony received criticism for his inability to get teammates involved on offense. His isolation-heavy approach to scoring was off-putting and never led to sustained postseason success.
This season, however, 'Melo has been more willing to create and make the extra passes around him that should lead to easy baskets.
But, due to the streaky players around him, Anthony doesn't always get recognized for the passes and would-be assists he'd collect if there was more consistency and movement from his peers.
According to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com, Anthony has "said that he is willing to make changes to his game if Jackson believes the prolific scorer has to do so to win an NBA title."
Anthony said, via Begley, "I'm willing to do whatever. As long as it's gonna put me in a position to win, I'm willing to do whatever. I'm not sold or stuck on my play."
'Melo's willingness to adapt for the sake of the team is an improvement in attitude and desire from past seasons of his.
Stoudemire has had a resurgence in 2014.
Throughout the month of March, when New York's need to win has been dire, STAT scored 18 points per game and grabbed 6.6 rebounds an outing over 27.2 minutes per game.
In this recent stretch, his body hasn't limited his mobility—despite the need for the occasional respite—and he's been swift in the post and effective on the perimeter with his mid-range jumper.
Stoudemire has led New York alongside Anthony throughout their winning streak—a combination of success that many wrote off during the first half of the season when Amar'e was mired by a lack of rhythm and physical consistency.
According to Stoudemire, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post,
The consistent time has been awesome and … those minutes on a consistent basis allows me to create confidence. I know what to expect every night. I know the minutes are going to be there and I know how to adjust.
With the increased responsibility he received, Amar'e has responded well by withstanding the physical duress of the sport and performing as many expected when he joined the franchise.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Statistically speaking, Hardaway Jr. was sporadic throughout the 2013-14 NBA season.
He's had some real duds when he's shot poorly, been a liability defensively and done little to involve his teammates in the offense. But he's also excelled in a few desperate spots for the Knicks that led the team to victory when defeat seemed inevitable.
Hardaway Jr. has developed since the beginning of the year, when the guard seemed timid and overmatched in the limited minutes he received.
Currently, he isn't afraid to be a threat and relieve some pressure from Anthony and Stoudemire: He averaged 11.8 field-goal attempts in February and 10.1 FGA in March.
His consistency isn't where it needs to—he shot 37 and 39.6 percent from the field in February and March, respectively—but as he continues to grow and adjust to the NBA, he'll be at least a rotation player in this league for a decade plus.
Mike Woodson said the following about Hardaway Jr., via Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal,
He's a shot-maker and he's an athlete. He's capable of putting the ball down and getting to the rim. But I want him to be a complete player. So I want him to get better defensively, and I think he will as the years come and go.
Hardaway Jr. will find consistency and continue to grow over New York's remaining slate of games as the franchise desperately pushes forward and inches closer to reclaiming a spot in the Eastern Conference side of the playoff bracket.
Stats are accurate as of Sunday, March 23, 2014.
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