After season debut, Chandler in line to start for Nuggets

Small forward will help fill void left by injured teammate Danilo Gallinari

For a six-minute stretch, Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler hardly looked like someone playing his first NBA game in nearly 11 months.

He drained an 18-foot jumper from the right baseline, swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key and knocked down a short jumper in the lane.

Then the altitude kicked in.

“I got tired after that,” Chandler said.

One day after signing a multiyear contract to stay with the Nuggets, Chandler scored 13 points on 6-for-16 shooting and grabbed four rebounds in Denver’s 112-95 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night.

The 28-minute appearance was Chandler’s first competitive game in more than a month. Before joining the Nuggets, he averaged 26.6 points and 11.6 rebounds in 32 games with the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association.

It didn’t take long for Chandler to realize he wasn’t in the Far East anymore.

“It’s a huge difference, no comparison,” he said. “There’s no league in the world like the NBA, I don’t care where you go.

“You forget how athletic guys are, how fast guys are, how skilled guys are. You’ve got good players all around the table. You come back to play first game against the defending champs and two future hall of famers (Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki), it was tough.”

With forward Danilo Gallinari out indefinitely with a fracture in his left thumb, Chandler could get his first start of the season when the Nuggets conclude their nine-game homestand Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons.

“(Chandler) came out playing well,” Denver point guard Ty Lawson said. “He was knocking down shots. He’s another versatile player. Hopefully we can incorporate him into the offense quicker.”

For his part, Gallinari is uncertain when that will be able to play again – most likely with a split on his injured thumb. He already missed 13 games with a severely sprained left ankle.

“It’s tough,” he said. “I was coming back, I was feeling pretty good and then I got this injury. Got to fight through it, be positive and try to get back as soon as possible.”

Denver also is expected to be without backup point guard Andre Miller against the Pistons. Miller, who has missed just three games due to injury in 13 seasons, separated his right shoulder against Dallas and is out indefinitely.

Rookie Julyan Stone likely will get some minutes behind Lawson. He is averaging two points and 1.8 assists in 16 games this season.

“Great defender, plays hard,” Karl said. “He’ll be OK.”

The Nuggets (25-21) have split the first eight games of the homestand, alternating wins and losses over the past two weeks. They will try to build some momentum in advance of a season-long seven-game road trip that starts Friday in Utah.

Notes: Nuggets backup guard Rudy Fernandez is questionable for Wednesday’s game with a lower back strain. Fernandez recently missed 11 games with the same injury and averaged 4.5 points and 2.5 assists in four games since his return … Denver has won three straight against Detroit after losing seven in a row to the Pistons … The Nuggets are 11-1 against the Eastern Conference, with the only loss coming by one point to the Cleveland Cavaliers … Detroit has lost three of four games on its current five-game trip.

Aaron Lopez
Aaron J. Lopez is the primary writer for, providing behind-the-scenes content, including feature stories and video for the site. Before joining the Nuggets in 2009, he spent 15 years covering Colorado sports for the Rocky Mountain News and the Associated Press, making him one of the longest-tenured sports writers in Denver. Aaron's full bio...