Ex-Cats

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist the Hornets’ ‘free agent’ who never left, now ‘healthy, ready to go’

The Charlotte Hornets' Michael Kidd-Gilchrist poses for a photo during the NBA basketball team's media day in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.
The Charlotte Hornets' Michael Kidd-Gilchrist poses for a photo during the NBA basketball team's media day in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. AP

Shooting guard Nic Batum said he feels a little cheated for only getting to play with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for seven games last season.

Two separate shoulder injuries, each requiring surgery, limited the Hornets’ rugged small forward to just seven games in February. But that was the start of the drive for the Hornets to a playoff spot and 48 regular-season victories.

“When we started making our big move from around 12th (in the East) to (a four-way tie for) the third spot, it was early February. That’s when MKG came back. That was no coincidence,” Batum said.

“When he came, everything changed. Then he went down before the All-Star break and we brought in (Courtney Lee), but it all started rolling when MKG came back.

“If he can play 82 games, we can be in good shape.”

Kidd-Gilchrist played 62 games three seasons ago and 55 two seasons ago. It’s innate to the way he plays that he’ll get into some collisions on the court.

He’s also an excellent complement to Batum: By his own description, the Hornets’ “middle linebacker,” who can free up Batum to focus more on the offensive end and not have to constantly guard the opposing team’s top perimeter scorer.

“We’re the same height” both about 6-foot-7, Kidd-Gilchrist said. “He’s a great, great passer and shooter. Offensive player. I’m excited to play with Nic.”

Kidd-Gilchrist didn’t want to continue discussing last season’s injuries during media day Monday. But he assured, “I’m glad to be back, on the court and healthy, and ready to go.”

“I understand that I’m a leader on this team. I’m young, but so what? I know a lot as a basketball player. I know how to win basketball games, and that’s all I want to do.”

Hornets Coach Steve Clifford has called Kidd-Gilchrist the Hornets’ de facto free-agent signing, since he played so little last season. Clifford said the Hornets might not be as good offensively as last season, at least initially, but have potential to be better defensively. Kidd-Gilchrist said that relates to all the switches the Hornets can make defensively with versatile players.

“Me, Nic, Frank (Kaminsky) and Marvin (Williams) will all switch, whether it be a (dribble-) hand-off or a ball screen.”

Kidd-Gilchrist put in major work this summer to get back to where he was, if not better, before the injuries.

“I don’t think it’s a secret that I’ve worked a lot on my shooting. I’ve been watching a lot of film this offseason of Iggy (Andre Iguodala) and Dwyane Wade. I’ve been doing that pretty much all summer.”

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