Hornets' Michael Kidd-Gilchrist out 6 months after shoulder surgery

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is expected to miss six months after having right shoulder surgery Tuesday night.

The Hornets' top defensive player, Kidd-Gilchrist tore his labrum and dislocated his shoulder in a preseason game Saturday night against Orlando.

Kidd-Gilchrist elected to have surgery after consulting with team orthopedist Marcus Cook earlier in the day. Had he not opted for surgery, his chances of reinjuring the shoulder were much higher.

Steve Clifford, the Hornets' third-year coach, plans to spend the rest of the preseason looking at different combinations to fill the void left by Kidd-Gilchrist.

He said the injury is a "hit" to the Hornets, but said the injury will give a chance for others to emerge.

Clifford hasn't decided who will replace Kidd-Gilchrist but said Nicolas Batum is expected to see more action than first expected at small forward. He was originally expected to start at shooting guard.

Clifford said the injury opens the door for P.J. Hairston or Jeremy Lamb to start at the No. 2 spot.

Lamb spent three seasons in Oklahoma City and has started just eight games. His best season came in 2013-14 when he averaged 8.5 points on 43.2 percent shooting. Hairston played in 45 games as a rookie and averaged 5.6 points in 15.3 minutes, shooting just 32.3 percent from the field.

Given the numbers, it would seem Lamb would have the edge, but Clifford expressed some reluctance about taking Lamb off the second unit, where he feels Lamb is a good fit alongside backup point guard Jeremy Lin.

Another option is keeping Batum at shooting guard and playing Marvin Williams at small forward.

"One of the things we were able to do over the offseason is improve our depth, so we have some guys who I feel are ready to emerge," Clifford said. "I still feel really good about our team."

Kidd-Gilchrist won't be easy to replace.

The Hornets gave him a four-year, $52 million contract extension this offseason knowing he's their top defensive player, someone who is regularly matched up against the opposition's go-to scorer in the fourth quarter. At 6-foot-7, Kidd-Gilchrist is able to guard a number of positions effectively.

The Hornets were 28-29 with Kidd-Gilchrist on the floor last season and 5-20 without him.

"I think he was ready to really get to another level," Clifford said. "He put so much into the summer. He has worked so hard, and he was playing really well."

Teammates noticed it, too.

Point guard Kemba Walker said Kidd-Gilchrist had spent endless hours in the gym looking to improve his shot.

Walker spoke with Kidd-Gilchrist and said: "He's trying to stay positive. And we are going to try to stay positive with him. We just have to work that much harder."