Charlotte Hornets rookie P.J. Hairston was involved in an altercation with a 17-year-old high school basketball player during a pickup game Sunday in Durham, N.C., in which the player alleged Hairston twice punched him.
Hairston's agent told Yahoo Sports that Hairston did hit Northern Durham High School senior Kentrell Barkley during the game at a YMCA – but said it was in retaliation to Barkley first punching Hairston.
"It was two kids in a gym who got into it during a pickup game," said Hairston's agent Juan Morrow, who tried to dismiss it as a "minor altercation." "They're trying to make it a big deal because it was P.J."
Barkley, however, disputed Morrow's interpretation of the altercation, telling Yahoo Sports that Hairston punched him while driving to the basket after they trash-talked during the game. Barkley said Hairston then punched him in the neck after approaching him following the first punch. Barkley said he didn't hit Hairston and couldn't retaliate because he was held back before Hairston quickly departed.
"I was surprised," Barkley told Yahoo Sports. "I asked, 'Why did you punch me?' I didn't hit him one time. I didn't hit him at all."
Barkley said he went to the police station to file a report against Hairston. A Durham Police spokesperson told the Charlotte Observer he was unaware of an incident involving Hairston.
After news of the altercation became public, the Hornets released a statement saying the franchise is gathering information about the incident and would not have further comment.
The Hornets selected Hairston with the 26th pick in the 2014 NBA draft after trading the 24th and 55th picks and a future second-rounder to the Miami Heat. Hairston averaged 14.6 points during the 2012-13 season for the University of North Carolina, but was suspended last season after an NCAA investigation into whether he received impermissible benefits.
Hairston went pro after the suspension and averaged 21.8 points for the NBA Development League's Texas Legends last season. He had been expected to play for the Hornets' summer-league team when it begins play on Friday in Las Vegas.
"There are concerns always when there have been things in the past," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said of Hairston during the Hornets' draft news conference. "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."
Barkley said Louisiana Tech, Cincinnati, Virginia Commonwealth, Charlotte and North Carolina Wilmington are recruiting him. Barkley's Northern Durham High team had a 26-2 record last season.