Charlotte Bobcats rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist says hes not going to use a concussion as an excuse.
Others who care about him say mentioning the concussion Kidd-Gilchrist suffered in early February isnt an excuse, its an explanation. Until the last two games he hadnt been the player worthy of the No. 2 overall pick; not the guy who occasionally totals 25 points or 10 rebounds or three steals.
Simply put, not himself.
Hes always in the action hes a physical player who attacks so for him to get a concussion, youve got to make sure its all the way out, said Bobcats co-captain Gerald Henderson.
Thats nothing to play with.
Yet thats precisely what Kidd-Gilchrist did; play with it. He collided with teammate Jeff Taylor Feb. 2 in Houston. First his head and neck made contact with Taylors leg, then his head bounced off the floor at the Toyota Center. The injury was serious enough that his neck was immobilized by medical staff and he spent the night in a Houston hospital.
Kidd-Gilchrist missed the next two games before passing the NBAs post-concussion protocol to play again. But theres a difference between being well enough to play and effective. He struggled the past month, and appeared to hit a low point against the Los Angeles Clippers at the start of a four-game West Coast trip.
That night he went scoreless the only time thats happened his rookie season. In 21 minutes he totaled one rebound and one block. He looked lost.
When asked how the concussion affected him, Kidd-Gilchrist implored, I dont make excuses. But when told his coach thinks this very much impacted his play, Kidd-Gilchrist let down his guard a bit.
I think it was a big deal, he acknowledged. I was hurt. Im trying to bounce back right now, still.
Theres now evidence of that bounce-back. Monday in Portland against the Trail Blazers, he finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season and first since the concussion. He followed that Wednesday with 17 points, five rebounds and two steals against the Brooklyn Nets.
Coach Mike Dunlap has said repeatedly this week that Kidd-Gilchrist is just now truly recovered from his head injury. Dunlap noted that hes taken two blows to his head the Houston accident and the kick he took in an earlier game against the New Orleans Hornets that scratched his cornea.
This is the Michael we drafted, Dunlap said Wednesday.
Dunlap indicated indecision was an issue.
Hes not thinking about playing as much (as in), Do I do this? Do I not do that? Dunlap said. Thats allowed him to play.
Playing assertively is important for anyone in the NBA, but maybe more so for Kidd-Gilchrist because so much of his game is based on intensity.
The No. 1 thing about Michael is he always plays hard. He gets a lot of points off his energy and his aggression the way he attacks the rim, Henderson said.
He had three put-back dunks (against the Blazers) with nobody around because hes always around the action.
Kidd-Gilchrists skill level still must catch up to his energy. He showed up in the NBA with a severely flawed jump shot. There was an odd side-spin to his delivery and his release came almost at the end of his jump.
The coaching staff works with him constantly on this. Dunlap said fixing that shot is a three-year process, but there has been progress; he now releases the ball from his fingertips, not his palm, and his release point is higher in his jumping motion.
Dunlap encourages Kidd-Gilchrist to shoot whenever hes open; you dont get better without testing a skill under game conditions.
Im working on it daily in the nighttime, in the morning, Kidd-Gilchrist said of his shot. Im more comfortable. But I have a lot more work to do still.