Charlotte Bobcats forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist invited an old friend to his home Tuesday for dinner and a chat. The friend – a mentor, really – offered lots of advice, which Kidd-Gilchrist summed up this way:
“He told me to ‘man up,’” Kidd-Gilchrist recalled.
The old friend is also a new teammate – Chris Douglas-Roberts. The Bobcats signed small forward Douglas-Roberts out of the NBA Development League as an injury fill-in, in part because of Kidd-Gilchrist’s broken left hand. Kidd-Gilchrist couldn’t be happier about the selection.
“It’s so good to have him here, a dream-come-true for me and him to be on the same team,” Kidd-Gilchrist said Thursday. “I never would have thought that in a million years. He’s my favorite player.”
So much so that Kidd-Gilchrist started wearing jersey No. 14 because that’s the number Douglas-Roberts wore in college as a Memphis Tiger. Kidd-Gilchrist ended up playing for Douglas-Roberts’ college coach, John Calipari, after Calipari moved from Memphis to Kentucky.
Kidd-Gilchrist grew up loving the way Douglas-Roberts played, but this is about more than that. It’s about a big-deal-college-player-turned-pro finding time for a teenager. Kidd-Gilchrist was in middle school in New Jersey when one of his uncles introduced him to Douglas-Roberts.
Their friendship blossomed to the point that Kidd-Gilchrist would sometimes hang out at Douglas-Roberts’ home after school, when Douglas-Roberts was a New Jersey Net.
“Really, he was like my brother,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.
Douglas-Roberts said the things that struck him about Kidd-Gilchrist, even in the eighth grade, were how hard he worked and how receptive he was to feedback.
“He’s always been a student of the game since he was a little kid,” Douglas-Roberts said. “(But) one thing you can’t prepare for is the business of this. I tell him, ‘You’re a basketball player – a good basketball player. Just have a thicker skin.’”
Douglas-Roberts says growing up in inner-city Detroit made him mentally tough. He’s needed to be, because the NBA didn’t come nearly as easily to him as some expected.
A top recruit out of high school, Douglas-Roberts lasted to the 40th pick when the Nets chose him in 2008. He played two seasons in New Jersey, then parts of two seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and Dallas Mavericks. In-between those gigs, he played in Italy.
Lately he’s played in the D-League, averaging 18.7 points for the Texas Legends. The D-League is very different from the charter flights and five-star hotels in the NBA. Sometimes he was on buses, riding from town to town on a game day, so the team could avoid a hotel bill.
Douglas-Roberts was fine with that because he wanted one more chance, the one the Bobcats offered Tuesday.
“Nothing bothers me,” Douglas-Roberts said. “I’m just here to play basketball.”
That’s the message he delivered Tuesday night to Kidd-Gilchrist, the protégé he calls “little cousin.”
“I told him you have to embrace all the pressure (of being the No. 2 overall pick). Never shy away from it,” Douglas-Roberts said. “You want people criticizing you. You want the media talking about you, positively or negatively.”
“I have no excuses these days,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “He told me adversity makes men. All these up-and-downs, they aren’t really ups-and-downs. They’re just how I think of it.”