Kurt Helin

Charlotte Hornets v Chicago Bulls
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Hornets’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist cleared for contact, will return soon

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The Charlotte Hornets need a boost. They have dropped 12 of their last 16 games, are without Al Jefferson, and have slid out of the playoffs in the East and are now 2.5 games back of eight-seed Boston.

How about the return of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist?

The Hornets best wing has been out all season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder which required surgery, but he is back and has been cleared for full-contact practice, the team announced Tuesday. Officially there is no timetable for his return, but it likely will be soon.

With MKG out, Marvin Williams has started all 41 Hornets games and has averaged 9.7 points per game, shot 38 percent from three, and the Hornets are +2.6 per 100 possessions when he is on the court. But Kidd-Gilchrist is an upgrade. MKG averaged 10.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last season, and, more importantly, was the team’s best defender by far — the Hornets were 7.8 points per 100 possessions better defensively when he was on the court.

Picture Nicolas Batum and MKG together as the starting wings, and suddenly the Hornets defense looks far more formidable. Maybe good enough to get back in the playoff picture.

Report: Sixers unlikely to make trade at deadline


The Philadelphia 76ers are not good, but a couple of moves have made them respectable — they are 4-8 since Ish Smith was brought in as the starting point guard, and those losses include forcing the Knicks to double overtime on Monday.

The Sixers don’t want to get much better this season — they still have their own draft pick and would love to have the best lottery odds to land Ben Simmons in June. But they don’t want to get worse, either. Which is why you probably shouldn’t expect them to make any trades in the run-up to the trade deadline in February, something reported by Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The 76ers will listen to trade offers, but chances are they won’t make any moves by the Feb. 18 trade deadline.

“We will continue to look for opportunities if there are things that we can do to add players for now and the future,” general manager Sam Hinkie said Monday. “We will look, but I’m not sure it will happen.”

The past couple trade deadlines GM Sam Hinkie sent talent out. Two seasons ago it was Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes shipped out at the deadline, last season it was Michael Carter-Williams (which was a smart move, he has struggled and the Sixers got the Lakers top-three protected pick this draft or next, a great asset).

Bringing in Jerry Colangelo was never going to change the core of the plan long-term in Philly — they have quality young players such as Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, but they need to add a lot more. Even without any moves they likely have three first round picks this season, four if the Lakers’ pick falls to fourth or worse. They have Dario Saric coming over in the next few years and — knocking on wood — Joel Embiid. Nail the draft and they can have something special.

They are not going to mess with that at the deadline unless someone blows them away with an offer.

John Wall’s agent change about empowering his friends, speaks to changes in agent landscape

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John Wall‘s decision to change agents — he recently left Relativity Sports, where he had been for five seasons, and soon will join Rich Paul’s agency — speaks to the landscape for agents.

It’s not simply a question of an agent getting guys the largest contracts anymore — Wall is in the middle of a max deal and will likely get another one after this. It’s about marketing opportunities, it’s about shoe deals, and it’s about the players’ friends having real power. It’s the model LeBron James set up (Rich Paul is his agent) and Wall told David Aldridge of NBA.com that “his team” of friends was at the heart of his decision to move on.

“Just a decision that I made, just thinking about it with my team,” Wall said earlier in the week. “The people I was with have been a great partnership the five years I was with them. They did a lot of positive things for me. It was just a situation where I felt me and my team wanted to go in different ways with how I wanted to build my team.”

Wall wants what LeBron James — and, a generation before both of them, Gary Payton — achieved: representation that will empower those closest to him in meaningful positions…

“That’s the way,” Wall said Saturday night, without naming any names. “That’s what I want to do.”

Wall will soon make his best friend, Ty Williams — “my brother,” Wall says — his manager.

Wall denied that him being a shoe contract free agent right now factored into that decision. I’d take that with a grain of salt. Wall’s negotiations with Adidas are reportedly going slowly; I find it hard to believe that didn’t play a factor, especially considering Paul’s connections with Nike. But it was not the only motivation.

Players switch agents all the time. Most players will have multiple agents over the course of their careers. It’s part of the game. And recently, with the powerful Arn Tellem leaving the Wasserman Media Group to become an executive with the Pistons, there has been a bigger shakeup than normal. It feels like half the league is on the move.

But what is being asked of agents is shifting, to a degree. Keeping a players’ posse happy was always part of the job, but now more and more players want their friends to have some real power. They trust those guys, and they want to help out their friends. An agent needs to find a way to make that happen, and put together an excellent marketing platform for the player as well.

And even then, the agent is going to get dumped at some point. It’s the game.

Title-winning Bulls assistant Johnny Bach dies at age 91

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CHICAGO — Johnny Bach, whose defensive expertise as an assistant coach helped the Chicago Bulls win three NBA titles from 1991 to 1993, has died. He was 91.

The Bulls confirmed the death Monday.

Bach was the head coach of the Golden State Warriors from 1983-86 before joining the Bulls as an assistant. He also worked as an assistant for Charlotte, Detroit and Washington. He returned to the Bulls in 2003 and retired in 2006 after more than a half-century in coaching.

Bach was the coach at Fordham from 1950-68 and at Penn State from 1968-77.

John Paxson, Chicago’s executive vice president of basketball operations, says Bach was “a true treasure in the world of basketball.”

Watch J.J. Redick drop nine threes on Houston in Clippers win (VIDEO)

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This stat says it all:

J.J. Redick has taken 206 threes this season, hit 103 of them — 50 percent. From three. When every team has near the top of their scouting report to chase him off the arc. Needless to say, he leads the NBA in three-point percentage.

Redick dropped nine threes on the Rockets Monday night — and the Clippers needed all of his 40 points to beat the Rockets in overtime. With the win the Clippers are 10-1 without Blake Griffin, I guarantee you if Redick were out 11 games the Clippers’ record would not be as good. They need him.

By the way, Dwight Howard had 36 points and 26 boards in a losing effort. He was a beast.