Michael Kidd-Gilchrist calls himself the “middle linebacker” of the Charlotte Bobcats.
It’s tough playing defense without a middle linebacker, as the Bobcats keep proving of late. After holding teams under 100 points in 13 consecutive games, the Bobcats have allowed 112 or more points in three of their past five games (four of those losses).
Injuries to Kidd-Gilchrist (broken hand) and fellow small forward Jeff Taylor (ruptured Achilles tendon) have been rough on this team. Taylor is out for the season, but Kidd-Gilchrist could be back as soon as next week.
“Since it’s his left hand (for a right-hander), he’s still shooting every day and he’s done a great job with his conditioning. So to me once he practices he can play. I’m hoping next week,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said Monday.
“He comes to all the film sessions, and the pre-game (preparation). He’s right on top of things.”
Frustrating as missing the past 16 games has been, Kidd-Gilchrist believes there’s been some benefit to watching the games and reviewing video.
“I’m ready to get back to work. I’ve watched a lot of film lately – film of myself and film of the team,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I don’t have any more pain in (his hand), so that’s good. And I’m on my way back.”
He’s being fitted with a protective glove to protect his left hand. He says he’ll return with a reaffirmed resolve to set the tone defensively.
“I’m like a middle linebacker to this team,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I don’t worry about the offensive end. I leave that up to Al (Jefferson) and Kemba (Walker) and G. Henderson. That’s not a priority of mine.
“I’m a competitor. I sit back and watch my team lose and that’s hard to watch.”
As good a defender as Kidd-Gilchrist is, Clifford doesn’t see him as a panacea. Clifford sees the slippage of late as a product of confused priorities. He’s said so frequently the past few weeks to the players.
“He’s an elite defender – both individually and in team defense. But (Kidd-Gilchrist’s absence is) not our problem. Our problem is we have guys who were putting more into defense before than they are now. They’re thinking the wrong things,” Clifford said at practice Monday, before Tuesday’s home game against the Washington Wizards.
“We have one guy on our team who could build his career around offense, and that’s Al. And his defense has been pretty good – he’s worked hard at it. We don’t have anybody else who can be a really, really good player if he won’t defend …
“If you’re listening to the wrong people, get the wrong things in your mind, it’s not going to work for our team. That’s been my message to them for a while now.”