Charlotte Hornets small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was eager to return to the basketball court after missing the first four months of the season with an injured shoulder.
Now, after playing well in a pair of weekend games, he said he’s ready for his next challenge.
The former University of Kentucky star will likely draw the primary defensive assignment against four-time NBA MVP LeBron James when the Hornets host the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.
“I’m feeling fine,” Kidd-Gilchrist said after Tuesday’s practice. “I’m excited. LeBron is a great player, and I’m ready for the challenge.
“Just getting back healthy is exciting to me. I was ready for the challenge.”
Kidd-Gilchrist, who injured his right shoulder in a preseason exhibition and had surgery Oct. 6 to repair a torn labrum, saw his first action in the final two games of the Hornets’ four-game West Coast road trip.
He made an impact in both games, with 13 points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes in a 109-91 loss to the Trail Blazers Friday, followed by 19 points, 12 rebounds in 27 minutes in Sunday’s 101-82 win against the Lakers.
“We talked about it over and over, and I was ready for it,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “(Coach Steve Clifford) expects the best out of me. I had been working — running, lifting, shooting, film — and I expect the best out of myself.”
Playing so many minutes goes against Clifford’s philosophy of slowly returning players back from injuries.
“I knew how hard he had worked on his conditioning,” Clifford said. “To be honest, I was surprised at how long he was able to play.
“I just thought it would take him a while to play so well, but he’s worked so hard and it’s obviously showing. He’s played two good games, and he’s got a big challenge (Wednesday).”