CHARLOTTE – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s jump shot never has been a portrait of perfection.
Not when he was dominating the AAU circuit in the New Jersey area or even while helping Kentucky win a national championship last season.
But the Charlotte Bobcats selected Kidd-Gilchrist No. 2 overall in last year’s NBA draft believing they could fix the flaws in his shot, help him develop into a dominant player at the NBA level and that he could become a key building block in their foundation.
Slowly but surely, Kidd-Gilchrist is showing signs of progress, particularly in the past week.
Although the Bobcats continue to struggle as a team, Kidd-Gilchrist has been a bright spot, shooting 67 percent from the field and averaging 17 points during the past two games.
Just as important to the Bobcats, the 6-foot-7 forward hasn’t been hesitant to pull up and launch an 18-footer.
“I really feel like over the last week we’ve seen the Michael that we drafted,” Bobcats first-year coach Mike Dunlap said. “He’s a little bit clearer and a little sharper.”
Dunlap attributes that to two things: Kidd-Gilchrist’s ability to put two head injuries this season behind him and the 19-year-old’s incredible worth ethic.
He said the rookie has spent an “inordinate amount of time” working to fix the flaws in his jump shot – and it’s starting the pay off.
Dunlap said the biggest modification in Kidd-Gilchrist’s shot is he’s releasing the ball with his fingertips instead of the palm of his hand. He also said his release point is slightly higher now, thus creating a loftier arc on his shot than when he came into the league.
Why someone never fixed the jerky motion in his jump shot when he was younger remains a mystery.
When the Bobcats drafted him Dunlap felt like it would be a three-year process for Kidd-Gilchrist to develop a more fluid release.
“I’ve seen guys in this league, over and over again, develop as jump shooters,” Dunlap said.
Kidd-Gilchrist said his confidence has improved dramatically.
“I’ve been working on it daily, the night time and the morning,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I feel comfortable with it now. I’m working on it still, don’t get me wrong. But I’m getting more comfortable. I feel better shooting.”
It’s been a difficult season for Kidd-Gilchrist having gone from winning a national title at Kentucky to playing for the NBA’s worst team.
Aside from that, he’s had to battle through two head injuries, the second resulting in a concussion last month.
Through it all, the Bobcats have told Kidd-Gilchrist to keep shooting.
“You can’t sit there and put question marks in Michael’s eyes in terms of those decisions in his head, especially being the youngest guy in this league at 19 years old,” Dunlap said.
Teammates love the energy Kidd-Gilchrist brings to practice and games.
They say it’s contagious and has helped them fight through a 13-48 season with the trust that one day it will get better.
“The No. 1 thing about Mike is he just plays hard,” said teammate Gerald Henderson. “So, he’s going to get a lot of points off just his energy and just his aggression. He attacks the rim... He’s going to continue to grow as a player and his confidence is going to continue to grow. For him, for all of us, but especially for him, as he gets more comfortable out there it will be more consistent.”
After posting 17 points and 10 rebounds against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday, Kidd-Gilchrist came back with another 17-point outing against Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.
He was a combined 16-of-24 shooting, half of those converted shots coming off jumpers.
“Regardless of how the season goes for us as a team, every game is a learning experience for MKG,” said guard Ben Gordon. “He’s only 19 and he’s going to continue to grow and you know, get better as he plays more. So, any time he has performances like that, it will help his confidence and give him something to continue to strive for and it’s going to be helpful for him.”
“He’s not thinking about playing as much, in terms of ‘Do I do this, or don’t I do this?’” Dunlap said. “I think that’s just repetition from playing the game.”