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.