Charlotte Hornets: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Dislocates Shoulder Again

Feb 6, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) drives to the basket during the first half against the Washington Wizards at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 6, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) drives to the basket during the first half against the Washington Wizards at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports /

Charlotte Hornets defensive anchor Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has dislocated his right shoulder for the second time this season. Can the Hornets find a way to replace him again?

Sometimes bad things happen to good people. We live in a world where Donald Trump wins presidential primaries, so anything is possible, even in a bad way. By all accounts Charlotte Hornets wing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a great person. He’s a fantastic player, a hard worker, and he’s very active in the Charlotte community.

He also gives the Hornets a lock-down defender on the wing, which is something few teams have. Kawhi Leonard and Tony Allen may be the only perimeter defenders on his level.

Before the regular season started, the thought was that Kidd-Gilchrist would miss the entire 2015-16 season due to a shoulder injury. In a preseason game against the Orlando Magic, he landed hard on his right shoulder, dislocating it and also suffering some ligament damage.

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Somehow MKG defied expectations and returned to the Hornets at the end of January. The most shocking part of his return was the fact that he seemed better than ever. In the six games since returning, he was averaging 13.5 points, seven rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game on 52.6 percent shooting. He also brought with him his typically outstanding defense and a refined jump-shot.

Despite the small sample size, his 42.9 percent accuracy from three-point range was well above his mark of 0 percent from last season. Sure, maybe it still looked broken, but at least it went in the basket now! That’s what optimists call progress.

However, Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers, the injury gods decided to step in and ruin Kidd-Gilchrist’s exciting return. In 19 minutes against Indiana he was continuing his excellent play. He had already scored eight points on 3-for-4 shooting in a game where Charlotte held a 60-43 halftime lead. Life was good.

Then, in the third quarter Kidd-Gilchrist dislocated his right shoulder again when a Pacer landed on it awkwardly. Not much about the severity of the injury has been revealed and it is not known how much time he will miss. According to the Hornets he will have an MRI on Thursday.

If ligaments were damaged again, then he would miss the rest of the season, and some of the offseason, based on the timeline of his first dislocated shoulder. It’s unfortunate, but the Hornets have to move forward. They’ve won without him before (remember that 14-8 start?), they’ll have to learn how to do it again.

If it is indeed an injury that will keep Kidd-Gilchrist out for a long period of time it will most likely lead to the return of P.J. Hairston to the starting lineup. Hairston has struggled with his shot for most of the season, but Hornets coach Steve Clifford likes his size and defense. Or instead, Clifford could go a different direction. A better direction.

The best solution would be to move Jeremy Lin or Jeremy Lamb to the starting lineup. Lin is actually a much better defender than Hairston and is a significantly better offensive player. Lamb is not much of a defender, but his frequent cutting would pair well with Nicolas Batum and his creative passing. Either would be a better replacement for Kidd-Gilchrist than Hairston.

Lin could begin the game at shooting guard with Batum shifting to small forward. Lamb would then become the first sub, coming in for Lin. Then when Kemba Walker takes his first break Lin could return and act as the point guard on the second unit. This would ensure the Hornets are starting their best five players and also allow Lin to get a large portion of his minutes at point guard.

A crunch-time lineup of Walker, Lin, Batum, Marvin Williams, and (soon) Al Jefferson also sounds appealing.

Lin and Lamb both stepped up in the game against the Pacers, scoring 14 and 16 points respectively on a combined 12-for-17 shooting. If Lamb’s shot selection keeps improving and Lin’s ankle heals up during the All-Star break, there is no doubt that Charlotte can replace Kidd-Gilchrist’s offensive contributions. On defense is where it gets tricky.

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No matter who replaces him in the lineup, there is no way to replace his defensive impact and his tenacious offensive rebounding. Lin and Batum are solid perimeter defenders, but they just can’t come close to MKG. Few can.  This is a huge loss and makes it much harder for Charlotte to make the playoffs. Not impossible, just much more difficult.

More importantly, it’s sad to see such a talented player continually have his season cut short due to injury. Get well soon, MKG.