After playing the last 10 games without a true center, the Warriors got two of them back Tuesday night in New York City.
James Wiseman and Kevon Looney returned to the court after recovering from a left wrist sprain and right ankle sprain, respectively, and both made big impacts in the Warriors' 114-106 win over the Knicks.
"We would not have won this game without James and Loon," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said in his postgame video conference. "They're just too big."
Kerr had been teasing the return of Looney and Wiseman since the end of last week, saying they would be available for the latter portion of their road trip. He also noted that their returns would bring tough conversations with some of the players who filled in for them.
In Wiseman and Looney's first game back, the center rotation was just like it was before they got injured. Looney started the game -- Kerr says he likes starting with his defensive prowess -- and Wiseman entered with 5:45 left in the first quarter.
The changes came down the stretch when Kerr didn't bring in Wiseman to close the game, instead utilizing Looney at power forward and Draymond Green at the small-ball center for defense and energy -- both of which were much needed at the end of this game.
But that wasn't a knock on how Wiseman played. How could it have been when Wiseman finished with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 16 minutes?
"You never know how a young guy is gonna respond," Kerr said. "But, again, the thing with James is that he's so talented. Some things out there come really easily to him."
As Kerr said, it was unclear how Wiseman would come out. As a young player coming back from the first injury that has caused him to miss substantial time, there was a question of how it would affect Wiseman's development.
But it was clear, through watching film and practicing when he was healthy, his development wasn't stunted at all. He was slipping when Steph Curry opened up that option as Juan Toscano-Anderson did, and he looked very comfortable on the floor overall.
"I just had to be patient," Wiseman said. "In the first quarter, I was rushing my shot a little bit ... I'm just listening to my teammates telling me to take my time and just go out there and play my game, getting comfortable."
The effect of having true centers on the floor was noticeable for a laundry list of reasons.
"Rebounds, more lob threats, I would say just making the paint seem more full," Kelly Oubre Jr. said. "Also, giving us that extra step on defensive coverages so we can more lucid when we need to switch up the game plan a little bit."
Looney played a big role on defense. It's the reason Kerr likes him in the starting lineup. Not all of his impact won't show up in the box score. He only scored two points. But he also had six rebounds, four assists and one block.
Looney also set screens -- which, in some instances, could be counted as assists -- and stuck to his assignment.
"Loon just ties things together," Kerr said. "There are certain guys who just fit with any lineup. I've talked about Juan doing that, Loon is another guy. You put him in and he just makes the right play over and over again."
Having Wiseman and Looney back is critical for the Warriors. Their 5-5 record without them is admirable under the circumstances, but for the Warriors to improve in the areas they struggle with and truly get better, they need their full roster.
Now, they can finally start assessing what changes need to be made as they head into the second half of the season.
Although the Warriors have a good small-ball lineup -- better than most -- Wiseman and Looney are the centers they will be rocking with for the foreseeable future. So, having them return without skipping a beat is an encouraging sign.