Charlotte Hornets rookie P.J. Hairston got into an altercation Sunday with a high school basketball player in Durham, his agent confirmed to the Observer.
Juan Morrow, who represents the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Hairston, said his client was playing in a pickup basketball game when tempers flared.
“The other guy pushed (Hairston), and he pushed back. Both shoved each other,” Morrow said in a telephone interview.
At that point the altercation escalated into punches, the agent said.
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“He swung at P.J., and P.J. swung back,” Morrow said, adding “both connected.”
Morrow said police were never called in reaction to the incident. A Durham police spokesman said she was unaware of any incident Sunday involving Hairston.
The Hornets issued a brief statement Sunday night, saying they are aware Hairston was involved in an incident and are gathering further information. The Hornets chose Hairston 26th overall June 26 in a prearranged trade with the Miami Heat. Over the past year Hairston has had various off-court issues, some of which cost him his NCAA eligibility at North Carolina and forced him into the NBA’s Developmental League.
Hairston was arrested in a traffic stop in Durham last summer. He was arrested for marijuana possession (the charge was later dropped), and a handgun was found near the car he was in.
The NCAA later revoked his eligibility, related to him using a rental car that was an impermissible benefit. Along the way, he was charged with speeding between Greensboro and Charlotte in another high-profile incident.
All that factored into him lasting until late in the first round. The Hornets auditioned Hairston twice leading up to the draft. When asked if his background and character were thoroughly vetted, coach Steve Clifford said the Hornets did their homework.
“There are concerns always when there have been things in the past,” Clifford said the day after the draft. “But we did a ton of intel on all of these guys. Not one guy making one call.
“If we weren’t comfortable he can be a dependable, efficient NBA player, we wouldn’t have taken him so high.”
Hairston, who grew up in Greensboro, has repeatedly said he has learned from past transgressions and is ready for the responsibilities that come with being an NBA player.
“There was nobody else to blame. I put myself in that situation and I had to pay the consequences,” Hairston told the Observer the day after the draft. “It was up to me to turn it all around – that I was able to overcome what’s happened in the last 12 months.”
Hairston then added, “I now have a smaller circle (of acquaintances) and I keep my family in that smaller circle.”
Staff writer Steve Lyttle contributed to this story.