DALLAS — Call it an epidemic.
Charlotte Bobcats second-year forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, emerging as a top defender in the league, became the fourth player in the last few days to sustain a broken hand.
Kidd-Gilchrist sat glumly in front of his locker, awkwardly attempting to get dressed with his fractured left hand secured by a metal brace and tightly wrapped, his ring and index fingers taped together. He didn’t know yet how long this freak injury would keep him out. Incredibly, he didn’t even know how or when the damage occurred, other than that something happened at some point before the 4:35 mark of the third quarter.
“I looked down at my finger and it was pointing the wrong way,” Kidd-Gilchrist said of his left ring finger. “I didn’t feel anything at the time.”
He exited the game, disappeared into the tunnel to have X-rays taken. Soon after, Kidd-Gilchrist was told his hand was fractured.
“I was really surprised,” he said.
The range of time Kidd-Gilchrist can expect to miss will likely range from two to eight weeks. How severe the injury is will obviously dictate his recovery time, but two to eight weeks is the range of time cited for the other three players who suffered broken hands within the past five days.
Two nights ago, Kidd-Gilchrist’s former teammate at Kentucky, New Orleans’ rising star and the league’s leading shot blocker, Anthony Davis, broke his left hand against the Knicks. A huge blow to the improving Pelicans, Davis is expected to miss four to six weeks. Nets forward Paul Pierce will miss two to four weeks with a broken right hand and Los Angeles Clippers sharpshooter J.J. Redick, who suffered a broken bone and tore a ligament in his right hand, is feared lost for six to eight weeks.
For the Bobcats, an offensively challenged club desperately trying to string together consistent performances and compete for a playoff spot in the downtrodden Eastern Conference, the loss of their 6-foot-7 wing is substantial.
“He’s our best defender,” dejected Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker said. “I don’t even know what happened yet. I hope we get him back soon.”
When Kidd-Gilchrist left the 89-82 loss against the Dallas Mavericks, the Bobcats were leading 60-51. They took a 67-60 lead into the fourth quarter only to be outscored 29-15 two nights after a heartbreaking one-point defeat at Miami.
“It’s a hit, it’s a big hit,” first-year Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. “He’s been playing well. Foul trouble has limited his minutes lately, but he’s been playing really well, so he’s going to be a tough one to make up for what he does.”
Clifford said Anthony Tolliver and Jeff Taylor will have to pick up the slack. Kidd-Gilchrist was averaging 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds, but the Bobcats, ranking third in defensive rating in the league (97.9 points per 100 possessions), and allowing fewer than 92 ppg, will have to drum up the defensive determination from elsewhere.
“He’s been great,” Clifford said. “If you watched him in Summer League, I think his progress from how he played in Vegas to now, he’s a much-improved player in every area. People talk about his shooting, he’s done a great job with his body, his conditioning, and he can be an elite defender in this league. He’s got toughness, his technique has gotten better and he’s very bright.”