Back in Lexington to work a Kentucky youth basketball camp, ex-Cat Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might best help campers by citing his own example of persistence.
MKG, as he is known, has persevered through multiple injuries, poor shooting in an age when the NBA has trended toward spreading the court, a stutter and the death of his father and an uncle.
When asked at a news conference Saturday why he never gave up, Kidd-Gilchrist cited several factors.
“Just my family, my friends and my passion for the game,” he said. “I always worked extremely, extremely hard in high school, and even in college.
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“I’m not going to change, now. For what? That’s what got me here at the end of the day. I’m not going to change for nobody.”
His NBA team, the Charlotte Hornets, showed their enduring faith in Kidd-Gilchrist last August when they signed him to a four-year, $52 million contract extension. The deal raised eyebrows considering MKG had career averages of 9.1 points and 6.1 rebounds.
I always worked extremely, extremely hard in high school, and even in college. I’m not going to change, now. For what? That’s what got me here at the end of the day. I’m not going to change for nobody.
Of course, injuries have hampered Kidd-Gilchrist. He suffered a concussion in his rookie season of 2012-13. Then in 2014-15, he missed 12 games because of a stress reaction in his right foot. Two shoulder surgeries reduced his 2015-16 season to seven games.
When asked about his health, Kidd-Gilchrist said, “Good. All healthy now. I’m 200 percent.”
With that, he chuckled. “I mean, just ready to go.”
Whether he can shoot a healthy percentage is the other big question hanging over Kidd-Gilchrist. According to SB Nation, as a rookie, he made only 28 percent of shots from 10 feet or further from the basket. That accuracy dipped to 27 percent in his second season.
After working with former college and pro sharpshooter Mark Price, MKG improved his shooting from that range to 40 percent in 2014-15. But skeptics noticed that he did not attempt a three-point shot that season.
Kidd-Gilchrist hinted that he’ll shoot much better next season.
“You’ll see this season,” he said of shooting. “I don’t want to brag on myself.”
Of his NBA career to date, Kidd-Gilchrist did not round upward.
“So far?” he said to make sure he understood the question. “It’s decent. But a lot of work to be done on my part. I’m more than willing to work harder and harder every day.”
Perhaps envisioning brighter days ahead, Kidd-Gilchrist mused about being an all-star player next season.
If that happens, he said, “I know I went through all my downs first. And it’s only up from there.”
Also during the 14-minute session in the Memorial Coliseum media room, MKG said:
▪ He was impressed by UK’s incoming freshmen, although he said he had not played in pickup games with them.
“I like ‘Bam’ for sure, for sure,” MKG said of Edrice “Bam” Adebayo. “He’s strong, a dog and he knows how to play the game.”
Kidd-Gilchrist also mentioned Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox, plus sophomore Isaiah Briscoe as players to watch.
▪ He was aware that former UK teammates Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones would be playing together for the New Orleans Pelicans.
“I don’t want to say I’m jealous because I’m happy in Charlotte . . . ,” he said. “I’m excited for them both. For sure, for sure.”
▪ The NBA is less about nurturing players than college basketball, a lesson he tried to teach ex-Cat Aaron Harrison, whom he referred to as “my rook.”
“It’s a hard league to be in year in and year out,” he said. “So you have to work hard because now it’s your livelihood. You’re not in college anymore, and people don’t really care about you at that stage.”
▪ He was disappointed that the NBA removed the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte.
“I’m pretty disappointed about that,” he said. “I’m pretty disappointed, but . . . that’s out of my reach. That’s out of my control.”
When asked what he thought about the reason the NBA withdrew the game, because of North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom law,” Kidd-Gilchrist, said, “No comment.”
▪ He noted the many changes on the UK campus since he left in 2012. He mentioned the new football practice facility in particular.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “And I’m very, very jealous, like we didn’t get a new (basketball) facility here. I really, really don’t understand that. I really don’t understand that one.”
When asked if he’d gone inside the new football facility, MKG said, “I don’t want to see it.”
Why? “I’m not a fan of (his voice trailed off).” Football? “Oh, never mind,” he said.