Small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returned to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday, four months removed from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
The Hornets announced Friday afternoon that Kidd-Gilchrist was cleared to play. Coach Steve Clifford planned to start Kidd-Gilchrist on Friday at Portland against the Trail Blazers. It was unclear how many minutes Kidd-Gilchrist might play, but Clifford’s track record is to bring back injured players gradually, slowly increasing minutes over a series of games.
Kidd-Gilchrist injured his shoulder Oct. 3 during the Hornets’ first exhibition in Orlando, Fla., against the Magic. He elected to have surgery that same week. The initial prognosis was that Kidd-Gilchrist would miss about six months. That would mean he’d be back in April at the earliest.
However, he outworked the process. He was cleared for non-contact practice the week of Jan. 3, then cleared for contact drills recently.
“No question I’m going to play this season,” Kidd-Gilchrist told the Observer on Jan. 6. “I’m going to play. It’s a matter of when now.”
Kidd-Gilchrist is considered the Hornets’ best team and individual defender. In his absence Clifford has started P.J. Hairston to avoid making Nic Batum constantly guard the opposing team’s top perimeter scorer.