Like dozens of other professional basketball hopefuls, P.J. Hairston has spent his past two months bouncing across the country from gym to gym, using every chance he can get to show off the skills and ability that would make him worthy of being an NBA draft pick.
But unlike others working out on the same courts and under the same baskets, Hairston is also trying to shed an image of being a troublesome talent.
"I’ve changed and mistakes were just mistakes and just the past," Hairston told Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
Variations of that statement have been uttered by Hairston over and over in countless interviews since the former North Carolina shooting guard officially entered the NBA draft process, something that was expected to happen after the 2013-14 season—just not after first having to spend time in the NBA D-League and without playing one more year with the Tar Heels.
The college career of the 6'6", 230-pound Hairston appeared to be accelerating at a steady clip following a breakout 2012-13 season when, as fate would have it, he was pulled over for driving too fast.
A May 2013 citation for speeding marked the beginning of a downward spiral for the rising star, who over the next few months would rack up other moving violations in vehicles rented by a Durham man. Hairston was suspended indefinitely by UNC in July 2013, and, following a lengthy investigation, the school announced in December that Hairston's Tar Heels career was over.
Hairston ended up playing for the Texas Legends of the D-League, where he flourished. He averaged 21.8 points per game and shot better than 45 percent in 26 games, showing off a skill set that has him projected as high as the middle of the first round in the June 26 draft.
Since attending the NBA Draft Combine in May, Hairston has worked out for more than a dozen teams, most recently the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday as reported by the Los Angeles Times' Eric Pincus. Getting a chance to try out in front of small groups of scouts as well as clear the air about his past has been cathartic for Hairston, who seems to be benefiting more from this openness than anyone could have expected.
"I feel like now that I’m [in the draft process], I don’t have anything to worry about," he told The Boston Globe. "I feel like I’ve been honest about the whole situation."
Interest in Hairston appears to be peaking as the draft approaches. Marc Berman of the New York Post reported Thursday that the New York Knicks may try to trade into the first round to grab him. Such a move would put a nice bow on the long turnaround journey Hairston has been on since last summer.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.
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