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Bobcats at Heat 6 p.m. (SPSO)

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Charlotte Bobcats’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist practices, expects to play vs. Miami Heat

Says he respects LeBron James but “I won’t back down against anybody”

It looks like Charlotte Bobcats small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be back to play against the NBA champion Miami Heat on Sunday, after Kidd-Gilchrist missed Friday’s victory over the Milwaukee Bucks with plantar fasciitis.

Certainly they need him, matched against Miami’s LeBron James, last season’s league most valuable player and probably the most versatile offensive weapon in the NBA.

Kidd-Gilchrist fully participated in practice Saturday before the team flew to Miami for a 6 p.m., Sunday tip-off at American Airlines Arena. Coach Steve Clifford said he plans to start Kidd-Gilchrist unless there’s some unexpected setback between now and the game.

Kidd-Gilchrist told the Observer his right foot is still sore, but it’s nothing like it was Thursday morning, when he spent to day in a protective boot.

“I feel a lot better. I’m going to take it day-by-day. I worked with the trainers a lot,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I’m working through it. I want to get back on that court.”

Obviously they need him tonight as the first defensive option dealing with James, who is third in the NBA in scoring (26.5 points per game) and second in field-goal percentage (59.8 percent). But James is so much more than a scorer; he’s often the Heat’s primary ball-handler/decision-maker and can excel as a power forward when Miami chooses to go small.

So the Bobcats need options – Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeff Taylor, maybe Gerald Henderson or Anthony Tolliver – to give James various defensive looks.

Now that he’s guarded James a few times, Kidd-Gilchrist sounds impressed but not intimidated.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for him, of course. But at the same time I’m my own man and I won’t back down against anybody,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.

“Playing against All-Stars is always fun.”

Henderson feels bad for fan hit by ball: Henderson took to Twitter on Friday night, hoping to reach the woman who was hit by his errant cross-court pass in the victory over the Bucks.

The woman was walking behind the Bucks’ bench, and was hit on the head. Henderson apologized to her when it first happened, but was rattled by video of the accident after the game.

“I hit her pretty hard. I went over and apologized to her, but after looking at that clip enough times, I need to apologize some more,” Henderson told the Observer at practice Saturday.

A Bobcats spokesman said the woman was examined at a hospital as a precaution and the team gave her a pair of signed, game-worn shoes as a gesture. The team did not provide further details on the woman.

“I saw it hit her pretty square. I didn’t know if she fell or hit her head or anything. It was pretty brutal,” Henderson said.

It’s not uncommon for courtside fans to come in sudden contact with the game action, but Henderson said this went beyond the norm.

“You get guys jumping into the stands and (fans) spill their drinks. You see passes go over dudes’ heads,” Henderson said. “But very rarely do you see something like that happen. That was one for the ages in a negative way.”

Rick Bonnell: (704) 358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell
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