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‘Track star’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ready to get back to basketball

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ROBERT LAHSER - rlahser@charlotteobserver.com
Charlotte Bobcats’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scores over the Brooklyn Nets’ Reggie Evans at Time Warner Cable Arena on Nov. 20.

Aspiring to be the next Andre Iguodala, Charlotte Bobcats small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist instead pretended to be the next Carl Lewis.

“I was running miles a day. I thought I was a track star out there the way I was running,” Kidd-Gilchrist said, joking about how he spent his rehab time for a broken left hand.

“And my hand was itching in that cast – that wasn’t fun at all.”

Kidd-Gilchrist is out of the cast and off the daily injury report. He has been cleared to play Tuesday against the New York Knicks, and coach Steve Clifford plans to start him.

He’ll be challenged immediately, as Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (26.1 points per game) is as dynamic a scorer as anyone at that position.

Kidd-Gilchrist has been fitted with a protective half-glove that places padding over the base of his fingers. He suffered a fracture at the base of his ring finger while playing Dec. 3 at Dallas.

He has had three practices without a setback.

The Bobcats certainly need him. They’ve lost eight of their past 10, and Clifford has noted a distinct slip in the team’s defense.

While Kidd-Gilchrist’s return won’t fix everything on defense, he has been calling himself the team’s “middle linebacker.”

“My hand is doing well. I’m just ready to play. It’s been a month, so I can’t wait until (Tuesday) against the Knicks,” Kidd-Gilchrist said at practice Monday. “I’m out of rhythm a little bit, but that’s usual. I want to be on the court and win some games.”

Kidd-Gilchrist used the six weeks of down time as productively as possible. He worked on his shooting, and Clifford said he did a particularly good job of trying to maintain conditioning.

Clifford said he’ll work Kidd-Gilchrist up to speed slowly, similarly to how the Bobcats dealt with center Al Jefferson’s ankle injury this season.

“Play him segments of minutes so that he’s able to function well, then get him out so he can regroup,” Clifford said. “I don’t know yet what Mike can handle. We’ll read it (from his performance) and go from there.”

Clifford said he thinks Kidd-Gilchrist might be back to normal more quickly than Jefferson because of the different circumstances.

Kidd-Gilchrist “had a training camp. Al didn’t have training camp. So his base of condition (should be better), and he’s younger” than Jefferson, Clifford said.

“I’m hoping by the end of the week – four games in five nights – and I think he’ll be pretty much back.”

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