It is not completely coincidence that the Hornets' 10-game losing streak coincided with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's injury. A stress reaction in his right foot caused Kidd-Gilchrist to miss 12 games in total, including all of Charlotte's miserable losing streak.
MKG is back, and through the first three games, looks like a rejuvenated player who is working his way back to where he was before.
Check the stats — before his injury, Kidd-Gilchrist was averaging 9.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting an absurd 62.5 percent from the floor (which, if he would've qualified, would have placed him among the best in the league). His true shooting percentage was 67.2 percent. He held an offensive rating of 92.2, a defensive rating of 103.8 and a net rating of -11.6.
Shooting Chart pre-injury
In the three games since he returned to the team, MKG is averaging 10.7 points and 5.3 rebounds (including 1.7 offensive boards) a game and has shot 90.7 percent from the free throw line. His field goal percentage was just 45.8 percent (thanks in large part to the 5-for-13 shooting effort against the Brooklyn Nets), but his true shooting percentage of 55.5 percent is third-best on the team. His offensive rating has skyrocketed to 110.2 (best on the squad), his defensive rating sits at 106.6 and his net rating stands at 3.6 (which is second-highest on the team).
Shooting Chart post injury
His rebounding has also been sorely missed. In his last three games, MKG holds a rebounding percentage of 14.8 percent (third-best on the team), an offensive rebounding percentage of 8.1 percent (second-best on the team) and a defensive rebounding percentage of 23.9 percent.
Watching him play, you would have no idea that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was coming off an injury to his foot. He has shown no ill effects, playing just as aggressive as he always has. You can tell when he is on the floor. MKG is more active, explosive and in your face than any other player the team has. He is running the floor and making smart cuts to the basket on offense. He is playing shutdown defense again. He has become a force on the boards on both sides of the ball — remember him stealing a rebound from Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies Friday night? — and seems to be back to his old ways of crashing the boards with near-reckless abandon.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist brings a different attitude to both the offense and the defense, and it seems to be catching on with other players.
But it is not just Kidd-Gilchrist's play that has improved. The entire team finally seems to be coming into its own and finding its identity, or at least seemed to before they laid an egg against the Nets Saturday night. Ignoring the blowout, the Hornets had given up 100 points per game to opponents and allowed them to shoot just 44.8 percent on field goals, including 30.6 percent on 3-point attempts. In the 12 games prior, an MKG-less Hornets squad was giving up 102.8 points per game as opponents shot 47.4 from the floor and 30.6 percent from 3.
Then, there is the rebounding numbers, Kidd-Gilchrist's other area of strength. While the small forward was out hurt, the Hornets' rebounding numbers looked like this — 40.5 rebounds (47.3 rebounding percentage; 78.6 defensive rebound percentage) and 9.3 offensive rebounds per game (20.1 offensive rebound percentage). In the three games since MKG's return, the rebounding numbers stood as follows — 42.3 rebounds (48.5 REB%; 85.2 DREB%) and 9.7 offensive rebounds per game (19.7 OREB%).
The Hornets have been very cautious in bringing MKG back, limiting him to just 19 minutes against both the Boston Celtics and the Memphis Grizzlies. But, if there was any positives to take out of the shellacking against the Nets, it was that Kidd-Gilchrist was let off his leash, playing 28 minutes and taking 13 shots.
To sum it all up, the team is very happy to have MKG back. He is a key member of the Hornets' present and future plans, and he was sorely missed when we was hurt — remember Luol Deng doing anything and everything he wanted against the team a few weeks back?
If Charlotte wants any chance of making the playoffs this year, the team will need their young small forward to get back to playing at pre-injury levels ASAP. Welcome back, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, we missed you.
All stats from NBA.com.