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Suns’ Brandon Knight after career-worst year: ‘Control what you can control’

Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight, center, drives to the basket between Portland Trail Blazers guards C.J. McCollum, left, and Damian Lillard during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)
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Brandon Knight’s worst statistical NBA season will officially go into the books Tuesday when the Suns’ season ends in Sacramento.

Record-keepers might as well have called it a year when Knight was benched following the trade deadline after he played in 54 games.

His dismal 2016-17 campaign saw the 25-year-old average 11 points and 2.4 assists per game while shooting 40 percent overall. With a game left for the Suns, Knight ranks 478th in the NBA — or eighth-to-last — with an average plus-minus of minus-6.1. Such a showing in a new bench role hasn’t changed Knight’s tune.

The 2011 eighth overall draft pick by Detroit will continue trying to improve.

He’ll keep supporting his teammates.

And he won’t speak poorly about his diminished role or the Suns management’s choice to bench him.

“Control what you can control,” Knight said Sunday after Phoenix beat Dallas 124-111. “I can control being a professional. Everything else is out of my control.”

Over the course of the two-and-a-half minute interview with local media, Knight said he would continue acting as a professional seven times. He said he would control what he could control on eight occasions.

It was similar to his exit interview last April when he maintained his role would not change despite the emergence of then-rookie Devin Booker.

He eventually accepted his place behind Booker. Again, Knight didn’t speak negatively of his role on Sunday, nor did he discuss his season in detail.

“Just a different experience,” he said. “A little bit different but it’s all about just continuing to … being positive and just continuing to look forward to the future.”

Knight, who Phoenix acquired at the February 2015 trade deadline, said he only focused on continuing to prepare himself as a professional when the Suns decided to shut he and center Tyson Chandler down after the trade deadline.

“I think they, you know, probably did whatever they thought was best for the situation,” Knight said. “Like I said, for me, like I said, I just try to be professional, control what I can control. I can’t say, speak for management or how the situation went. I just try to be professional.”

Knight had never averaged less than 12.8 points per game — his rookie year — in a season or fewer than 3.8 assists per game.

With three years and $43.8 million remaining on his contract, his trade value plummeted during the first half of the year when his playing time suffered due to poor defensive performance.

Knight did not expect to play after being a healthy scratch the first 10 games following the February trade deadline, and when the Suns asked him to back up rookie point guard Tyler Ulis for the March 15 game that marked the beginning of point guard Eric Bledsoe’s season on ice, Knight was listed out with back spasms.

General manager Ryan McDonough later said that was due to Knight having ramped up his individual work to an “aggressive offseason workout mode.”

The fifth-year guard never appeared in a game from that point forth.

On Sunday, Knight would not entertain talk about whether he saw his future in Phoenix or elsewhere.

“We’ll see what happens. We’ll see how things go,” he said. “I’m still part of the team. I’m still here with the Phoenix Suns. Even moving into the summer, be professional, continue to hold myself to the character that I’ve been holding myself to as a professional, regardless of the situation, regardless of what’s going on.

“I’m going to do my best to continue to be a better player. I’m going to continue to work on my game, continue to move forward as an individual. I’m going to focus on myself and control what I can control.”

Craig Grialou contributed reporting for this story.

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