It appears the Charlotte Hornets are getting back their best defensive player after small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist missed the past dozen games with a stress reaction in his right foot.
Kidd-Gilchrist was cleared to practice Tuesday and, barring a setback, will play in Wednesday’s home game against the Boston Celtics.
“It felt good. I’m just happy to be back on the floor,” he said after practice. “I’m excited for tomorrow. I can’t wait.”
Kidd-Gilchrist was diagnosed with a stress reaction Nov. 13, the day before a road game against the Phoenix Suns. A magnetic resonance imaging revealed the condition, a precursor for a stress fracture.
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Had the reaction become a fracture, he would have missed six to eight weeks, so the team was careful with his treatment. Just recently he was cleared to jump.
The Hornets went 2-10 in his absence. Over the past two seasons the Bobcats/Hornets are 10-22 when Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t play.
Coach Steve Clifford said Kidd-Gilchrist gave every indication in practice that’s he’s well and ready to play again.
“He had a ton of energy and played really, really well,” Clifford said. “As long as he’s not too sore (he’ll play) – to me, he looks like he’ll be fine.”
Clifford said he would initially use Kidd-Gilchrist as a reserve behind Lance Stephenson and Gerald Henderson, rather than immediately move him back into the starting lineup. That relates to the conditioning Kidd-Gilchrist lost in the 3 1/2 weeks he couldn’t practice.
“By the nature of his injury, he wasn’t able to do a ton of conditioning, so I really don’t have a feel for how many minutes he can play,” Clifford said.
Kidd-Gilchrist was mostly limited to workouts in a swimming pool to protect his foot.
“I trust coach and what he’s doing with this team,” he said of initially coming off the bench. “I’m just glad to be getting the opportunity to play ball again. I’d mostly been in the pool – that’s about it.”
Kidd-Gilchrist, averaging 9.8 points and 5.5 rebounds, can obviously offer a boost to a team that has started 5-15.
“He brings an energy level and an intelligence,” Clifford said. “He handles the ball (in the fast break), which allows us to play quicker. And just his competitiveness – that’s really at this stage his exceptional trait.”