Kristaps Porzingis had 15 points and five rebounds in 29 minutes in his return to the lineup during Thursday night's 113-110 loss to the Wizards at Madison Square Garden.
Porzingis, who has been dealing with an Achilles injury, was seeing his first game action since Jan. 11.
He received results of an MRI on Thursday, which revealed no structural damage in the Achilles.
"I felt good," Porzingis said, according to Fred Kerber of the NY Post. "When I played I didn't think about it at all, the Achilles, and I felt good. I'm happy I had no issue."
The Knicks exercised great patience with Porzingis in allowing him to rest over the last week. They were rewarded in the energy he brought against Washington, despite the losing effort.
The recent tinkering with the starting lineup (not to mention the rotation overall) has worked out, even if the record isn't reflecting it so far. Head coach Jeff Hornacek has gotten the necessary hustle from Ron Baker in a new role, while plugging Mindaugas Kuzminskas into the starting five has put him in a place that encourages more aggression on the offensive end. Kyle O'Quinn has filled in nicely for Joakim Noah, and the shift to the bench has clearly lit the fire under Courtney Lee.
All of these positive developments led to Porzingis coming off the bench on Thursday. As he inches his way back, this was the right move for all. Luckily for the Knicks, the big man showed no obvious ill effects of someone who had been out with an Achilles injury.
It was easy to tell Porzingis was excited to be back and even more eager to contribute. He didn't hold back, throwing himself all over the place in an effort to fight for rebounds and offensive opportunities around the basket. He provided a much-needed physical presence.
Porzingis missed all three attempts from downtown and his jump shot looked rather flat. Still, he looked very loose and didn't take long understanding how he could make an impact, even if he had to do so in a somewhat limited way in his first game back.
Hornacek didn't hesitate playing Porzingis in crunch time, though his injury put a halt on the expected experiment to play the youngster more at the center position. As Porzingis returned and Noah continued to sit, it was all the more reason to try this out.
Perhaps Porzingis shouldn't be tasked with handling the more physical burden on a regular nightly basis, but there's no doubt both he and Carmelo Anthony benefitted from the shift from an offensive standpoint. This gives the Knicks options going forward.