The news the hit on Monday out of Charlotte was deadening. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, one of the NBA’s rising young defensive stars and a cornerstone on a hoped-for Hornets playoff team, will effectively be out for most if not all of the 2015-16 season with a separated shoulder. The injury not only dampens MKG’s ability to tinker with and add to what could eventually be a stunning all-around game, but he severely damages Charlotte’s chances at making the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
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With every cloud, almost literally, comes a silver lining and a new chance at NBA employment.
Damien Wilkins was thisclose toward hopping a flight to join his new team in the Venezuelan league when one of the storms that has made travel so atrocious in the southeast this week delayed his flight.
“I had signed a contract to play in Venezuela for this upcoming season and I was scheduled to leave for there this past Saturday, 10/3/2015. The first leg of my trip originated in Atlanta. I then fly to Charlotte for my connecting flight that is scheduled to take me to my final destination in Venezuela. I get to Charlotte and the connecting flight is delayed. Not surprising considering the weather has been crazy lately.
“So I called an Uber to take me to the hotel and on the ride there the Hornets/Magic game was on the radio. So I’m listening but not very closely. Then I hear them say Kidd-Gilchrist has been injured and wasn’t returning to the game (foreshadowing). I think nothing of it except that I felt bad for him. No one ever wants to hear that type of news.
“So I got up and got myself ready and went on to the airport to catch my flight. When I got to the airport there wasn’t anyone at the desk of my airline I was flying. So I went ahead through security and TSA with the ticket info from the night before. I went to the same gate and there wasn’t anyone there either. So I just sat and waited and I could see the plane still parked at the gate. After sitting there for about an hour I called my agent to see if there had been anything new from the Hornets and he said not yet. By that time my flight was scheduled to leave in about 75 min and I could see people starting to gather around the gate area.
I figured I had enough time to grab a quick bite to eat so I went to a cafe near the gate and ordered breakfast. When I food finally came it was about 50 minutes until my flight was leaving. My phone rang and it was my agent, his words, “Damien! Do not get on that flight!!” He said emphatically! I asked, “so we’re a go with Charlotte?” He said, “yes sir!!” I was so excited and in disbelief that I didn’t really know how to react. I don’t remember eating any of the food I ordered and I think I walked out on the bill!”
(Spoiled, jet-setting NBA types. Always stiffing the restaurant staff. Just kidding, Damien.)
Wilkins has played for five NBA teams since going undrafted out of Georgia in 2004. The son of former NBA standout Gerald Wilkins and nephew of Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, he has batted around China’s NBL, the NBA’s D-League, and in the Puerto Rican league since last playing in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2013.
Wilkins has averaged just 6.3 points per game in his NBA career, and he’ll turn 36 midway through 2015-16, but if he sticks on the Hornets roster into the regular season it’ll be easy to see why. He’s a defensive-minded wing that can adapt on the fly and guard two positions, a perfect end of the bench guy that can be trusted.
And if he doesn’t hang on past the training camp cuts? Then he gets a few more weeks in The Show, and (presumably) yet another ticket to play somewhere warm later this fall when all the leaves fall off the trees up in North Carolina.
Pretty solid return, either way. He even got a free meal out of it. Thanks again, Mother Nature.
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