Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist made his return after missing nearly four months with a shoulder injury.
The team’s top defender started against the Trail Blazers in Portland. The former University of Kentucky star played a surprising 33 minutes in his first game back, finishing with 13 points and seven rebounds in a 109-91 loss.
“Being on the floor for the first time was really fun, but it’s not about me, it’s about the team and finding some wins,” he said. “I’m happy to be back to say the least.”
The 6-foot-7 Kidd-Gilchrist had surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder on Oct. 6, months after he agreed to a $55 million contract extension. He was injured in the team’s first preseason game at Orlando on Oct. 3 when he landed awkwardly on the shoulder.
Kidd-Gilchrist played in 55 games last season, averaging a career-high 10.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 28.9 minutes a game.
Coach Steve Clifford said that there will not be strict minute restrictions on Kidd-Gilchrist but he would watch him carefully. The Hornets trailed by as many as 20 points against the Blazers, but rallied back to single digits.
“I thought he’d be able to play 6 to 8 minutes a time,” Clifford said. “In the fourth quarter when that group got rolling, I just told him to let me know.”
Kidd-Gilchrist said he got tired in the third quarter.
“I was a little winded. I had a spurt of sprints up and down the floor so I got a little tired.”
The Hornets can use him. Charlotte has been beset by injuries this season. Nicolas Batum recently missed seven games because of a right toe sprain but returned for Wednesday night’s 102-73 loss at Utah.
The toe gave him trouble in Portland, and he finished with three points and eight assists.
“My toe is like three times bigger than the other one,” Batum said.
Jeremy Lin injured his right ankle, which gave him trouble earlier in the season, in the loss to the Jazz and wasn’t available for the game against the Blazers. Clifford said he had no timetable for Lin’s return.
Charlotte was also without guard Jeremy Lamb for the fourth game because of a sprained big toe on his right foot.