The news about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist re-tearing his labrum is impossible to spin in a positive light. Kidd-Gilchrist is the team's most valuable player, setting the tone for the defense, and even enhancing the offense as well. When he came back, there was the optimism that he could help solidify the team's playoff chances. Now, even if he chooses the rehab, the fight for the playoff gets tougher.
This season, Kidd-Gilchrist has played just 70 minutes with the starters, according to Basketball-Reference. That is if you count the starters without Al Jefferson. Now, we may never really know just what a Nicolas Batum and Kidd-Gilchrist perimeter defense looks like in a larger sample, which is a bummer.
Unfortunately, it seems that the sooner we see him, the higher the risk becomes. If he chooses the rehab, it sounds as if he could play, but there would be a great chance of reinjury. Should that happen, it would be the third injury within a year, which isn't great. While it's ultimately up to him, it doesn't seem worth risking a player who means so much to the team for just one playoff appearance as a non-contender.
It just seems that Kidd-Gilchrist's setback just falls in line with the story of the team's season. Al Jefferson could return following the all-star break, but he's played just 19 games and will likely need to work himself back into shape. Other key players like Batum and Cody Zeller have missed their share of time as well. But it's not that the Hornets have had a rash of injuries, it's just that they've typically come to key players.
Richard Cho spent the summer upgrading this team to make a run, and many questions surfaced about how they would all fit together. Steve Clifford has done an admirable job in putting them together, but he's hardly had a full box of pieces to work with. The margin of error becoming surprisingly smaller in the Eastern Conference certainly doesn't help matters either.
Of course, the Hornets aren't the only team to deal with these issues. After making the playoffs last season, the New Orleans Pelicans' season has come undone due to injury. Quincy Pondexter and Tyreke Evans are out for the season. Omer Asik, Norris Cole, and Eric Gordon have all also missed time. Consequently, the team began 1-11 and their season was over before it began.
Then there are the Washington Wizards who have lost 214 games to injury-- a full 96 more than the Hornets. At 23-27, the Wizards were supposed to be a contender in the East, but only John Wall and Ramon Sessions have played in every game. Meanwhile, Bradley Beal has missed 21, Nene has missed 23, and several other key rotation players like Otto Porter have missed handfuls of games too.
Injuries are an inevitable part of the game, but that doesn't make anyone feel any better. We were supposed to see teams like the Pelicans take that next step, and see if the Hornets and Wizards could compete for a Southeast Division title. Now, both teams will have to fight each for a playoff spot like in the Dark Knight when the Joker broke the pool cue and told the two prospective henchmen he was holding tryouts.
The Hornets came into this season with a ton of expectation, and may not meet them. However, if they fail, it will be because of the things they couldn't prevent, not the things they could. Sometimes, you can find solace in that, and other times you find yourself wishing you had more of a say.