Hornets F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist gives Charlotte a valuable defensive boost

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returned from a six-game absence in Charlotte’s 110-107 victory over the Bucks on Monday, and he gave his team an important boost on the defensive end.

The defensive specialist tweaked his ankle in a 113-103 victory over the Pistons on Nov. 11. Buzz City went 3-3 without him, but were glad to get him back in a home game against one of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference.

“Win or loss, I’m excited to play out there with my brothers,” Kidd-Gilchrist said Wednesday after shootaround.

The Hornets lost to the 5-11 Hawks Sunday, but they’ll get a chance to redeem themselves Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET in the Spectrum Center. Charlotte is currently 10-10, and the players believe they hold the key to their own fate.

“It ain’t about the Hawks. It’s not about them. It’s about us, our effort, heart, passion and energy,” Kidd-Gilchrist said when asked about the game plan for Wednesday.

The impact of his seven points, seven rebounds and two blocks were much more notable than they seem on paper. He chased down a Khris Middleton fast break layup and pinned it against the backboard in the closing minutes of the second quarter, bringing Hornets fans to their feet. His plus-minus was 18, which led the team.

“It trickles down on the rest of us. It makes us want to play hard for each other. Makes us want to make those hustle plays,” Jeremy Lamb said when addressing Kidd-Gilchrist’s contagious energy.

At its best, Charlotte can compete with the elite of this wide open Eastern Conference, but it can also fall short to teams scraping the bottom of the barrel if it doesn’t have the right approach. Getting such a critical player back in the mix will help the Hornets remain competitive in the playoff race. The regular season is nearly a quarter of the way through, and they currently sit at seventh in the East.