By Matt Rochinski
November 12, 2012
Bobcats rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist not only had what Head Coach Mike Dunlap referred to as a “breakout game” on November 10, 2012 against the Dallas Mavericks, he was only a handful of days away from making NBA history.
MKG helped lead the Cats to their first win in franchise history over the Mavs, 101-97 in overtime, with the first double-double (25 points, 12 rebounds) of his career. At 19 years and 45 days old, he was just 76 days away from becoming the youngest player in NBA history to score 25+points and bring down 12+ boards. LeBron James was 18 years and 334 days old when he scored 33 points and hauled in 16 rebounds for Cleveland against Memphis on November 29, 2003.
Kidd-Gilchrist is in good company, as only seven players in league history have hit the 25-point, 12-rebound plateau while under the age of 20. James has done it twice, while Kevin Durant (Seattle), Carmelo Anthony (Denver), Dwight Howard (Orlando), Lamar Odom (L.A. Clippers) and Eddie Griffin (Houston) all did it once.
“(MKG) was unbelievable tonight – grabbing rebounds, blocking shots, pushing the ball coast-to-coast, getting and-ones and made two big free throws,” said point guard Kemba Walker immediately after the Bobcats win. “He was… man, he wasn’t the rookie tonight – at all.”
As Walker said, it wasn’t just about the numbers MKG put up on the scoreboard and under the rim, as he swatted two Mavs shots, swiped one steal and did not turn the ball over. He also drew rave reviews from ESPN Basketball Analyst Tim Legler who was watching the game courtside.
“I was incredibly impressed with how hard he plays and how much he wants to win – that was evident,” said Legler said after the Cats win. “I’m just impressed with how much he wants to win, and also I’m big on watching coach-and-player interaction… and he’s coachable. He wants to learn and has much respect for his coach. I was watching that interaction all night and honestly could not be more impressed with what he did tonight.”
While most rookies aren’t expected to put up 25 points every night, it’s been MKG’s consistency in other areas that have impressed Coach Dunlap. Aside from averaging 12.2 points, Kidd-Gilchrist is second on the team with 7.6 rebounds, including 2.8 offensive boards. He’s also blocking 2.20 shots, swiping 1.60 steals and dishing out 1.2 assists. Those numbers rank him first in steals, second in rebounding and blocks, fifth in scoring and 10th in assists among rookies this season.
“I think rookies have tremendous highs and tremendous lows, but everybody that has been watching all of our games says that MKG is getting better, and now all of a sudden he had a breakout game,” Coach Dunlap said after the win over Dallas. “I think realistic expectations are that he can do what he’s doing on the boards, he is a very good defender and the third part of his game is indescribable. He has those intangibles – passes the ball in close quarters and gets an extra hand on the ball to keep it alive on the offensive glass – just a lot of little things that for me are very noticeable.”
Posting the numbers he has across the board to start the season at only 19 years old – MKG is making his opponents take notice, as well as NBA analysts and fans.
“He’s going to be a very good NBA player, if not maybe an all star one day because I can tell he loves to play and is a hard worker,” said Legler. “If you have those two qualities, and you get the right coaching, you’re going to be fine.”
And as one of his veteran teammates points out, Kidd-Gilchrist hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential yet.
“He’s been learning the game and getting used to the pace of the game,” said Ramon Sessions. “When he gets ahold of it, he’s going to be dangerous.”
For now, Cats fans can take comfort that MKG is in elite company and is stepping in nicely as a key piece of a winning puzzle here in Charlotte.