At times this short season Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was very much the NBA rookie: Hesitant to drive, prone to the occasional turnover or ill-timed foul.
He wasnt a rookie tonight, Charlotte Bobcats teammate Kemba Walker said proudly, after Kidd-Gilchrist was a central figure in a 101-97 overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
This was big for many reasons including the fact history was made. The Mavericks were the last of 29 other NBA teams never to have lost to the Bobcats: 16-0 for the series.
Bigger still that Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 overall pick in June, looked like the No. 2 pick: A career-high 25 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. He drove to the rim constantly and with daring, and he grabbed an offensive rebound that set up the basket that forced overtime.
Its getting more and more comfortable. Im starting to get everything, said Kidd-Gilchrist, who made 8-of-12 shots from the field and went to the foul line 10 times. I love my coaching.
And Saturday coach Mike Dunlap loved having Kidd-Gilchrist around. The 6-7 rookie small forward grabbed in a miss and found teammate Ramon Sessions for the drive with 2.8 seconds left in the fourth quarter. That made it 91-91 and created the extra session.
Along the way Kidd-Gilchrist played with assertiveness he never quite reached in his previous four starts.
Hes gone into crowds with some trepidation, some hesitancy, Dunlap said. But people have a way of bouncing off him.
The Bobcats closed this one out in overtime primarily thanks to Sessions (12 points and four assists) and Kemba Walker (26 points, eight steals, seven assists and six rebounds).
Walker was a factor all game. Sessions turned it on from the fourth quarter on, making two daring drives for layups and feeding Byron Mullens (a career-high 14 rebounds) for a go-ahead dunk in overtime.
Point guard Sessions, signed as a free agent over the summer, has fit in faster than the coaching staff could have hoped. He and Ben Gordon take pressure off Walker to make all the key decisions with the ball.
He settles us down, Dunlap said of Sessions. Hes just so confident on the floor and he makes his free throws.
Thats just what Sessions and Kidd-Gilchrist did, making four straight at the foul line in the last 19 seconds of overtime.
Ramon is a closer, Walker said. That makes it a lot easier on me.