If you thought Michael Kidd-Gilchrist didn’t play like a No.2 overall pick last season, then know this: Kidd-Gilchrist didn’t think so, either.
The Charlotte Bobcats small forward recalls his rookie season with disappointment – not about the team’s 21-61 record, but rather that he didn’t do more to help.
His numbers weren’t bad. He averaged 9.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and just under a shot-block per game. But he’s used to excelling, and this was well short of that in a class that featured rookie of the year Damian Lillard with Portland and stellar big man Anthony Davis with New Orleans.
“I was disappointed in myself,” Kidd-Gilchrist said at media day, on the eve of training camp Tuesday morning at UNC Asheville. “It wasn’t the losses. I like all my teammates and we bonded a lot. I was mad at myself. I set goals and I didn’t reach any of the goals that I set. All my life I did that and last year I didn’t reach one goal.’’
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Asked for specifics, Kidd-Gilchrist said he set out to be rookie of the year and failed. He set out to make first-team all-rookie, and failed.
Failure is an uncommon, uncomfortable experience for Kidd-Gilchrist, who turned 20 a week ago. He was a star at St. Patrick High in New Jersey, then was a key piece on Kentucky’s national championship team (playing with Davis) in Kidd-Gilchrist’s only college season.
Kidd-Gilchrist can be hard on himself. He confessed to Kentucky coach John Calipari early last season that he might not be ready for the NBA. Calipari scoffed at that perception, telling Kidd-Gilchrist he’d be just fine.
Right now he’s an above-average defender and rebounder (one of the few superior rebounders on this team). But his incomplete offensive skills – particularly a jump shot undergoing an overhaul – held him back as a rookie.
Kidd-Gilchrist didn’t play well at summer league in Las Vegas, which drove him back to Charlotte in August and September to work on his game. Bobcats assistant Mark Price, once one of the best shooters in NBA history, was assigned the task of fixing a jump shot with shaky footwork, a hitch in the delivery and an occasional case of side-spin.
As Kidd-Gilchrist acknowledged Monday, it’s still a work in progress.
“He started with my footwork and from there it was just shooting the ball a lot. I’m ready to shoot it at all times,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.
Is change hard?
“I don’t know if it was just hard on me. It was hard on Mark, too,” Kidd-Gilchrist said of remaking his delivery. “I’m committed to him and he’s committed to me.”
Kidd-Gilchrist dislikes excuses. When a media member suggested Monday that he hit the perceived “rookie wall” at midseason, Kidd-Gilchrist dismissed the notion.
“You can say it’s a wall. I say it was a slump,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “Ask D-Wade (Miami’s Dwyane Wade, who struggled in the playoffs). He’s still the same. There is no wall.”
Kidd-Gilchrist said everything about this week – new coaches, new teammates, new optimism – signal a fresh start.
“I want to get better at this game. I want to be an All-Star at some point,” Kidd-Gilchrist concluded. “And I want to win games.”