New Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford is searching for ways to use Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s explosion and ballhandling to create easier scoring opportunities.
Small forward Kidd-Gilchrist is in heaven over that prospect.
“That’s what I do best. I like the contact,” he said following the first summer-league practice at Time Warner Cable Arena. “Any layup opportunities I get are great.”
Kidd-Gilchrist is still a long way from being a reliable jump-shooter, but Clifford noticed he completed 61 percent of his plays any time he got the ball to the rim, even against NBA shot-blocking.
“That is excellent for a rookie,” Clifford said “The majority of that was drives, hooks, putbacks – ways to use his energy. He’s got to play as much as he can to his strengths. And that’s what he’s been doing.
“Anything we can do to get him moving toward the basket can only help him.”
Kidd-Gilchrist said he loves the additions the Bobcats made in drafting 7-footer Cody Zeller fourth overall and coming to terms with free-agent center Al Jefferson.
Team officials can’t comment on Jefferson’s signing, which can’t become official until July 10, but Kidd-Gilchrist addressed the need for Jefferson’s low-post scoring.
“Al Jefferson, I’m just ready to go,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “He and Zeller, too. It’s going to be a good year in general for all of us.”
Kemba on the way: Clifford said point guard Kemba Walker is scheduled to fly into Charlotte Monday morning to participate in several practices with the summer-league team. Walker won’t play in the games in Las Vegas, but he will be there later this month for a Team USA mini-camp run by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Simplify: Asked about center Bismack Biyombo, Clifford said he doesn’t want Biyombo getting overwhelmed by areas of his game that need work.
“I’ve told him... instead of trying to be outstanding at everything, pick one or two things,” Clifford said. “Above all else, his rebounding and his team-and-individual defense. His offense will come from there.”
Rookie steps: Clifford said Zeller is still working out the nuanced difference between the college game and the NBA rules, which don’t allow defenders to just pack the paint.
“He’s got to first get comfortable with the NBA game,” Clifford said. “He’s been asking about defensive three-seconds and why he has to get out beyond the hash mark (when his man leaves the paint).
“Then he’ll be comfortable. He’s got such a good feel for the game and his versatility is there.”
Practice, not just games: Clifford said how players perform in practice – both here and in Las Vegas – is actually a better gauge of their potential than the games on UNLV’s campus.
“What I want to see is who can learn and how quickly they learn,” Clifford said. “That’s where I’ll formulate where they can go. It’s never about who has the best (summer won-lost) record.”