Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will play his first game of the regular season Wednesday, at home against the Denver Nuggets.
Hornets coach Steve Clifford said Kidd-Gilchrist would start, but would be limited to around seven minutes per half. Kidd-Gilchrist was away from the Hornets for about 12 days, following the death of his grandmother in New Jersey.
Clifford said he’ll throw Kidd-Gilchrist back into the starting lineup immediately in part because the Hornets have been getting slow starts to games. Also, Kidd-Gilchrist is the best defensive matchup for Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler, when the Nuggets feed Chandler in the post.
Kidd-Gilchrist practiced Saturday and Sunday in Charlotte before accompanying the team to Milwaukee for Monday’s loss to the Bucks. Clifford chose not to play Kidd-Gilchrist in that game.
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With Kidd-Gilchrist starting, rookie Dwayne Bacon will become a reserve. Bacon, a second-round pick, started the first three games this season and has drawn Clifford’s praise. Clifford said Wednesday morning he could go deeper with his rotation Wednesday since Kidd-Gilchrist’s minutes will be limited.
The Hornets will again be without four other players who would be in the rotation if healthy: Nic Batum (elbow), Cody Zeller (knee bruise), Julyan Stone (hamstring strain) and Michael Carter-Williams (knee soreness).
Clifford said of those four, center Zeller is probably the closest to being cleared to play. He suffered a right bone bruise in the first half of the season opener against the Detroit Pistons. There is no timeline on Zeller’s return; it’s when his soreness and flexibility in the joint allow him to play.
“There’s not a whole lot of rehab you can do for a bone bruise, other than stay in shape. I told these guys I want to sign up for the Tour de France, with how many (stationary) bike workouts I’ve had this week,” Zeller joked.
Zeller said this knee bruise isn’t as bad as the one he suffered last season.
“It’s in a spot where it doesn’t hurt at all to stand or walk, or do normal activities,” Zeller said. “But they said once I start cutting and playing, it will get it a little more” sore.
MCW ‘Pretty far away’
Point guard Carter-Williams, who has yet to play this season because of soreness in both knees, played some two-on-two Tuesday, when the Hornets were off from practice.
While Carter-Williams is progressing, Clifford indicated it won’t be soon that he’s ready to play in a game.
“Just conditioning-wise (because he hasn’t played since last season), I think he’s pretty far away,” Clifford said.
With Stone also out, the Hornets are hurting for depth at point guard.
“My knees responded pretty well (to two-on-two Tuesday), not much soreness,” Carter-Williams said Wednesday morning. “Now I’m going to start ramping up my conditioning, so that when I get out there I won’t just be dragging my feet tired.”
Howard’s foul shooting
Clifford said center Dwight Howard’s 0-for-9 foul-shooting against the Bucks wouldn’t keep Clifford from using him in late-game situations.
“I think he’ll make them. I watch him every day and he’s diligent about it. I believe in him,” said Clifford of Howard, a career 56.8 percent foul shooter.
Clifford said you have to take Howard’s entire performance into consideration. He grabbed 22 rebounds against the Bucks, and provided late-game rim protection.
“He made two plays in the last two minutes that took absolute layups away from the other team,” Clifford said. “There is a give-and-take with every team as to what you have to do.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell