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Bender awaits his first chance to play with Knicks

CHARLOTTE - Jonathan Bender did not play last night against the Bobcats, as Mike D'Antoni initially suggested he might. The Knicks' newly-signed 7-foot forward didn't even put on a jersey. It'll be "maybe a week" D'Antoni said.

For Bender, along with getting re-acclimated to the pro game, comes the initial first step of testing out the durability of knees that MRIs show are without cartilage after chronic injuries earlier in his career. The painful bone-on-bone condition forced him to retire in 2005-06.

But Bender says he is virtually pain-free - without surgery or even regeneration therapy - mostly thanks to former Olympian Charles Austin, who worked in the past with former Knicks Allan Houston and John Starks. He said rest and rehabilitation during the past three years helped dull some of the sharp bone matter that caused the discomfort in his knees.

Bender said D'Antoni's style of play appeals to him because "there's not a lot of banging involved, so you preserve your body."

Brown backs D'Antoni

Larry Brown said he understands what D'Antoni is doing with Nate Robinson suddenly out of the rotation. Brown actually wanted Robinson sent to the D-League during his rookie season in 2005-06. He believes Robinson eventually will get his chance to play again. "He's a terrific talent . . . a highly competitive kid," Brown said. "He does some silly things sometimes, but it's not to hurt anybody." . . . Reports of Knicks interest in acquiring Bobcats guard D.J. Augustin are somewhat dated. According to multiple sources, the Knicks inquired about Augustin during the summer but nothing materialized.

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