Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets lock in Kidd-Gilchrist with $52 million extension

Charlotte Hornets small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might have made some more off his second NBA contract by waiting until he reached restricted free-agency next July.

Instead he chose the security of a four-year, $52 million extension in a place and with a franchise that have become his home.

“Why wait?” Kidd-Gilchrist said at a Wednesday news conference to formally announce the signing. “I’m learning from the best. I don’t do this for the money.”

Perhaps not, but his second NBA contract will make the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft fabulously wealthy. Also Kidd-Gilchrist has some upside protection in the contract’s terms. A source familiar with the deal said Kidd-Gilchrist has a player option for the final season, so if his improvement coincides with the anticipated spike in the salary cap, he could become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019.

Kidd-Gilchrist would still be 25 – young by NBA standards – at that juncture.

Wednesday was a highly emotional day for Kidd-Gilchrist and his family. His mother frequently dabbed away tears during the news conference. He thanked numerous people including team owner Michael Jordan, the coaching staff and his family and agents.

“I’m learning from the best: MJ, Coach (Steve Clifford), Patrick Ewing, Mark Price,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.

Price, now coaching the Charlotte 49ers, was the Hornets assistant who worked diligently two summers ago to fix Kidd-Gilchrist’s jump shot. Price and Kidd-Gilchrist became so close through that experience that Kidd-Gilchrist skipped a team flight last season, flying to Washington later in the day at his own expense, to attend Price’s introductory news conference at UNC Charlotte.

Price returned that respect Wednesday, attending Kidd-Gilchrist’s news conference.

While Kidd-Gilchrist is still developing offensively (he averaged 10.9 points and 7.6 rebounds last season), he’s among the NBA’s top wing defenders. He told the Observer last season he aspires to be the best defender in NBA history, and didn’t back off that goal Wednesday.

“Aim for the stars; you’ll probably land on the moon. I have confidence in myself,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.

So does Clifford. In discussing Kidd-Gilchrist’s potential Clifford said Wednesday he should be first-team all-defense next season.

For the second straight off-season Hornets general manager Rich Cho signed a core player to an extension before that player ever reached free-agency. Last summer it was point guard Kemba Walker, who received a four-season, $48 million extension.

“It’s really important to have continuity. These are two guys we really want to build around,” Cho said. “MKG embodies everything we want in a Hornet.

“We both wanted the same thing – for MKG to be here,” Cho said of the negotiations. “We wanted to get this done early, to lock him up.”

Added Leon Rose, one of Kidd-Gilchrist’s agents, “Really it all begins with Michael. Those were his wishes, to be here if a deal could be struck that he was comfortable with. So both sides were trying to do it.”

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell

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