I originally thought the Charlotte Hornets made a smart move when they traded for former UNC player P.J. Hairston late in the first round of last month's NBA draft (he was No.26 overall). But the first warning flag is flying now and it's a big one: Hairston got in an "altercation" in Durham Sunday while involved in a pickup basketball game.
Hairston and a high school basketball player named Kentrell Barkley first pushed each other and then punched each other in Durham Sunday, Hairston's agent told The Observer's Rick Bonnell. Here is an updated story.
But P.J., are you kidding me? Seriously, are you kidding me?
This, of course, is the same Hairston who got in so much trouble as a Tar Heel that he ended up playing last season in the D-League instead of in Chapel Hill. He would have been the best player on the court most of the time for a UNC team that could have sorely used him.
Hairston is the player the Hornets interviewed over and over and talked about repeatedly in staff meetings as they tried to figure out whether he would do something else that would cause the wrong sort of headlines, the one who said "I'm a changed man" after the eligibility problems and the traffic stops. He made a lot of people believe it, and a lot of those people are wondering exactly why they believed it at the moment.
This is the man who should have walked away from a potential fight Sunday. He had to walk away.
He didn't walk away.
Barkley, in fact, says he didn't throw a single punch but got hit twice. I wasn't there and don't know what happened exactly. You also can see a lump on Barkley's forehead in this video, although it is unclear whether it is from the punch. I know pickup basketball gets heated with all those hard fouls, and I've played enough of it and seen enough of it to not be surprised when tempers flare.
But punching a 17-year-old, rising high school senior?! Really, P.J.?! You are the first-round draft pick and the older guy and the one with by far the most to lose in this situation. Did any of that go through your head when you wound up for that punch?
Many things are left unknown at the moment, although Hairston did issue an apology through the Hornets Monday afternoon. He is now with the team for a summer-league practice.
But the Hornets need to do something. Certainly, Hairston can recover from this. But it looks bad -- both for Hairston and for the Hornets.