While the Charlotte Hornets opened their preseason Saturday night with a 106-100 victory over the Orlando Magic, their mood afterward was more one of concern than accomplishment.
Starting small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist injured his right shoulder late in the second quarter and never returned to the game. He was taken to a local hospital for X-rays and further evaluation. Coach Steve Clifford said afterward he was awaiting any update about the severity of the injury.
Kidd-Gilchrist, who signed a $52 million contract extension over the summer, was fouled by Tobias Harris while coming off a pick. He hit the floor hard and was clearly in pain as he was helped to the locker room. Spencer Hawes had to be brought into the game to shoot the two free throws resulting from the foul.
Clifford was able to hold to his commitment to not play any of his five starters – Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, Al Jefferson, Nic Batum and Kemba Walker – more than 24 minutes. Jeremy Lamb opened the second half in Kidd-Gilchrist’s place, giving the Hornets essentially a three-guard offense.
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Rookie 7-footer Frank Kaminsky didn’t enter the game for the first time until 9:58 remained. He finished with seven points, four rebounds, a blocked shot and three turnovers.
Three who mattered
Nic Batum: The veteran of seven seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers wasted no time demonstrating why the Hornets were willing to part with Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh to acquire him the week before the draft. Batum had 14 points, six rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes.
Kemba Walker: After scoring only two points in 14 first-half minutes, Walker had a three-point play and a 3-point field goal in the opening three minutes of the third quarter to give the Hornets their first lead at 56-55. He finished with 13 points and a game-high eight assists with just one turnover.
Andrew Nicholson: A 2012 first-round pick of the Magic who averaged only 4.9 points in 40 games for them in 2014-15, Nicholson scored 17 of his game-high 23 points following halftime.
▪ The Hornets nearly matched their high in 3-point attempts from last season. They ended up 12 of 31 from long range, led by Williams’ 3-of-6 showing. They attempted 33 against the Toronto Raptors in April.
▪ Lamb and Cody Zeller were the first two substitutes inserted by Clifford with 4:46 to go in the first quarter. The Hornets were only 4 of 14 to begin the game with their starting five. Before the end of the quarter, there was an entirely new group on the floor in Zeller, Lamb, Hawes, Jeremy Lin and P.J. Hairston.
▪ Clifford told reporters before the game that while he would not play Kaminsky and Jefferson together against the Magic, “they will, going forward.” That could happen as soon as Sunday night at Miami or in the Hornets’ two upcoming games in China against the Los Angeles Clippers. “We have a lot of ways we can go,” Clifford said of his possible player pairings.
▪ Batum took nine shots in the first quarter of his Hornets debut, making three. He was matched up for part of that time against Magic first-round draft pick Mario Hezonja, the fifth player taken overall. Hezonja was the first member of the Magic brought off the bench by new coach Scott Skiles.
▪ Kaminsky missed a jump shot off an inbound play on his first field-goal attempt. His first basket came less than a minute later on a fast break off one of Lin’s seven assists.
▪ Guards Troy Daniels (left hamstring tightness) and Elliot Williams (left hip flexor strain) were not in uniform for the Hornets.
▪ The Hornets outscored the Magic 37-25 in the third quarter and led 79-67 when Clifford took out Walker, the last of the five starters who were still on the floor.
▪ Magic second-year forward Devyn Marble hit a jump shot early in the second quarter despite losing one of his shoes in the process of driving to the basket. Teammate C.J. Watson quickly committed a foul so Marble could retrieve the shoe.