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July 29, 2014

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NBA Day 8: Chandler stars for nicked-up Knicks

If New York coach Mike D’Antoni felt any weirdness today about his new team, the Knicks, playing against his old squad, the Phoenix Suns, he certainly didn’t share that sentiment with his players at Cox Pavilion.

“We all kind of new the storyline, but it’s a Summer League game,” said N.Y.’s Wilson Chandler, who scored 14 of his team-best 31 points in the fourth quarter of the Knicks’ 85-80 victory over the Suns in an NBA Summer League game on Friday.

“It’s important to get the win and maybe play into that story a little bit, but more important to work on our team chemistry and playing together,” continued the forward from DePaul, who has averaged 22.3 points per game to go with nine rebounds in three games.

Coming into the 10-day session, the buzz about the Knicks revolved around rookie Danilo Gallinari and last year’s Summer League MVP, Nate Robinson.

The signing of Anthony Roberson earlier this week and what that means to Stephon Marbury’s future in New York future, combined with Renaldo Balkman spraining an ankle and Gallinari being held out because of a sore back has created plenty of chatter on Knicks message boards.

But the 6-foot-8, 230-pound Chandler has been impressive.

“I feel like I’m kind of making the most of my opportunities,” said Chandler, who average 7.3 ppg and 3.6 rebounds in 35 games for New York a year ago.

“I wish some of those other guys were out here playing because it would make it easier and we could get use to playing with each other in the new system.”

Sun D.J. Strawberry, who had a game-tying three-poiner blocked, led Phoenix with 21 points. Alando Tucker, who has led the Suns in scoring this summer, added 19, while rookie Robin Lopez recorded 15 points to go with nine rebounds.

Leaving (Las Vegas) on a High Note — Detroit looked to be the dominant squad during its first two games of the NBA Summer League. The Pistons led by guard Rodney Stuckey took down both the Lakers and the Clippers comfortably.

But when Detroit decided to let Stuckey (who came up big last year in the playoffs) sit, the Pistons suffered back-to-back losses.

Stuckey was again on the bench Friday, but this time Detroit found a way to leave Las Vegas with a win — defeating a Charlotte squad that was without D.J. Augustin (knee tendonitis), 78-67.

“I guess that’s kind of how Summer League play goes,” said Detroit guard Arron Afflalo, who led the Pistons with 15 points per game. “It was good to bounce back in the last game, get that victory and hopefully build towards the season.”

Afflalo, a UCLA product who received plenty of love from the West Coast fans at Cox Pavilion, said he felt he improved on some things over the course of his second Summer League.

“It’s important to come out here and do well, hopefully it will help me to have a bigger role where I’m ready to contribute more and help us get back to the championship,” said Afflalo, who also averaged 3.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.

Augustin, who has averaged 19.7 points per game in three Summer League showings, is the third lottery pick to be put on the shelf this week. The Clippers’ Eric Gordon played only two games because of a strained hamstring and New York rookie Danilo Gallinari played in only one contest because of a sore back.

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