Does P.J. Hairston Have a Future In Charlotte?


P.J. Hairston‘s road to the NBA was not typical, and now that he is here, you have to wonder if his past transgressions have taught him anything.

The Charlotte Hornets selected P.J. Hairston late in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft, and they hoped that coming back to North Carolina would allow Hairston the opportunity to get his career back on track.

At one time he was the go-to guy for the North Carolina Tar Heels, leading the team in scoring. However, after being suspended by the team for speeding and reckless driving multiple times, the university decided that Hairston would not be back on the team regardless of what happened with any NCAA investigation regarding his alleged use of rental cars provided by a third party.

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At the time, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams reacted to Hairston leaving the program with disappointment:

"“I am extremely disappointed for P.J., his family and our team as he will no longer be playing basketball at North Carolina. P.J. made mistakes and I was very disappointed by his actions and now he is suffering the very difficult consequences. He is not a bad kid; he just made some mistakes.”"

Still, even with the troublesome events of that summer, Hairston found a spot in the NBA with the Hornets. Old habits die hard though, and Hairston has been criticized for his lack of work ethic during his rookie season in the association.

Before he ever set foot on the court for his first NBA game, the team was forced to do damage control. Hairston allegedly got into a confrontation with a high school student during a pick-up game, although the charges were eventually dropped. From that point, Hairston got into a controversy surrounding his dealing with an agent who was not certified by the NBA players association.

He followed up his tumultuous road to the NBA by allegedly not putting in the work to get better, culminating in his getting benched by head coach Steve Clifford after missing a mandatory workout. After missing the workout, Clifford said of Hairston:

"“Throwing people in to play minutes they haven’t earned is not a good thing.”"

Even when he has actually been on the court, there has been little production. Hairston has shot just 32.3% from the field this year, which is so horrible that is actually makes Kemba Walker look like an expert marksman.

In addition to poor shooting, Hairston makes few plays for other players, averaging just 1.1 assists per 36 minutes. He has never been a great playmaker, even in college, but smallish guards who never pass the ball usually do not have long NBA careers.

Hairston is an unrepentant chucker, and that needs to change if he ever expects to be part of the Hornets rotation. Clifford said as much earlier this year:

"“Potentially he could be a starter. He can shoot with range and rebounds for his position,” Clifford said. “But he hasn’t developed any way to play to make his teammates better.”"

In watching his play on the court, a few things stood out. Hairston has the athleticism and the aggression to be successful. There were plays during the year where Hairston would come from out of nowhere to snag a rebound or loose ball, showing that he was just faster and more aware than other players.

He has a high basketball I.Q., which makes his chucking all that much more reprehensible. It also makes the plays he takes off very obvious. And there were quite a few times where Hairston checked out during a play.

It is not just on offense, Hairston showed that he can be a plus defender at the NBA level, if he works hard. He has quick hands, agile feet, and the intelligence to read the defense. Several times Hornets fans saw Hairston pick off an opponent’s pass, starting the fast break.

Then again, his inconsistency showed. Some plays Hairston simply backed off too far and let his man shoot or make a play without much resistance. Or worse, there was an especially egregious flop from Hairston that resulted in a wide open three pointer.

Over and over again the keys to Hairston succeeding in this league comes back to whether he works hard or not. Some players have been in that position and flamed out. Others turned it around and became respected players.

Hairston can still go either direction, but one thing is sure, he has all the talent needed to succeed.

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