Thoughts from draft night as P.J. Hairston joins Hornets but James Michael McAdoo isn't drafted

Posted by Andrew Carter on June 27, 2014 

— Some day-after-the-NBA-draft thoughts on dreary, sticky Friday in Chapel Hill …

So P.J. Hairston goes to the Charlotte Hornets, after all, after some team sources reportedly expressed concern over whether it’d be a good idea to draft him. We probably don’t need to detail why Charlotte might have been concerned about drafting Hairston but, if you needed a refresher, Hairston grew up in Greensboro and his decision-making led him to some trouble – however relatively minor – both in high school and at North Carolina.

Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer wrote an excellent story about Hairston and his hometown roots, and the possible issues Charlotte might have had with drafting Hairston. The story was published earlier this week and you can read it here. In the story Hairston says this, about the concerns the Hornets expressed about him:

“I feel like if I got drafted in Charlotte, people would be more worried about me than the basketball side. That’s the only question, because I want people to watch basketball and not be worried about my personal life.”

Later in the story, there was this from Hairston:

“I know I’d be OK (in Charlotte). If that weren’t the case I wouldn’t have made it through high school. I grew up in the hood. I’ve always had the all the attention. I’ve always had people around me. I’ve always had people asking me for stuff. I know how to handle the situation.”

There’s little doubt that Hairston can play, that he’ll make an NBA team happy with what he can do on the court. Even so, he enters the league having to prove his character. Us media types waste a lot of time talking about “distractions” and a lot of other things we probably don’t know a lot about, honestly. But it is a fact that Hairston’s decision-making hurt him in high school and hurt him at UNC.

At UNC, his issues came down, mostly, to the use of rental cars and other impermissible benefits. UNC eventually decided that Hairston’s case was so egregious that it couldn’t seek his reinstatement from the NCAA. A lot of NCAA rules and regulations are flawed, but that’s a separate discussion. Under the rules – whether they’re good rules or not – Hairston made decisions that put his eligibility in jeopardy.

Now, in the NBA, the use of rental cars won’t be an issue. But the questions about Hairston’s past, and his character, will linger on – fair or unfair – until he proves he can be a professional. I covered Hairston for three years – well, two, I suppose – and he never struck me as a “bad” guy. Just one who was a bit immature, a bit unprepared for the glare of the spotlight. At no other place in the NBA will the glare on him be brighter than in Charlotte. Not because of what he’ll do on the court. But because he’ll be playing in his backyard. He’s likely to be surrounded by the same people who surrounded him when he made some questionable decisions in the past.

Will that be a problem for Hairston? The Hornets evidently don’t think so. Here’s hoping Hairston proves them right.

##

I liked covering James Michael McAdoo. Always found him to be humble, honest, even a little bit sheepish about his stature as a recognizable figure on campus at UNC. So I was hoping, the way journalists’ sometimes do about the people they cover, for good things for him on draft night.

It wasn’t to be. McAdoo left UNC a year early – or maybe two years too late, depending on your perspective – to enter the draft. Had he left school after his freshman season, when he came on late that year amid an injury to John Henson, McAdoo likely would have been a lottery pick. Some folks suggested last night that he could have been a top-five pick (I’m not sure about that). Either way, he would have been drafted.

Two years later, after productive, good seasons – but not great seasons – McAdoo goes undrafted. People will look at his story as a case study as to why players should always take the money and run. And if you’re all about money, it’s difficult to argue. McAdoo, though, never struck me as a guy too caught up in the rush to make a ton of money playing basketball. If he was that guy, he would have left after his freshman season.

On those occasions when he talked about why he decided to stay in school, McAdoo always spoke of how much he enjoyed college life, how much he enjoyed learning, how much he liked being a part of the college culture in Chapel Hill. He went to dance shows at the campus theatre, just to watch them, and he had a variety of non-basketball friends. In short, basketball wasn’t necessarily his life, the way it is with some players.

So while others might be sad for McAdoo, I’m guessing he’s OK with how things turned out. I’m sure there’s disappointment, obviously, at not hearing his name called. But he’ll have a chance to make an NBA roster and, if that doesn’t work out, there’s little doubt he can make a great life playing overseas for a while.

You can say he cost himself millions of dollars by not leaving school two years ago, but he gained some things in the process that he values, too. Not the least of which is a wife, who he met at UNC and married the day before delcaring for the draft.

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