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P.J. Hairston excels in D-League debut

P.J. Hairston

FILE - In this March 17, 2013, file photo, North Carolina’s P.J. Hairston (15) walks downcourt during NCAA college basketball game against Miami in the championship of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C. Hairston says he will play in the NBA Development League. In a statement, Hairston said he submitted paperwork to play in the league Friday afternoon, Jan. 10, 2014. The Tar Heels’ leading scorer never played this season after the school decided last month not to seek his reinstatement for NCAA rules violations.(AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

AP

P.J. Hairston is a basketball player, and now he’s playing basketball.

As it should be.

Some of his problems (reckless driving, speeding) would have troubled him anywhere and others would have mattered only in certain states under certain conditions (marijuana). But his most-recent issue – and the one that has most substantially effected his career – matters only to the NCAA. The NBA doesn’t care who pays for whose rental cars.

Mostly, the NBA cares about who can play. And if Hairston’s D-League debut is any indication, Hairston can play.

Coming off the bench, Hairston led the Texas Legends with 22 points (on 16 shots, including 4-of-9 3-point shooting) and six steals.

Hairston is ranked No. 32 by Draft Express and No. 34 by ESPN, but if he keeps up this level of production, he’ll be a first-round pick, even in this loaded draft.

Washington Wizards rookie Glen Rice Jr. paved the way, getting drafted No. 35 last year after spending a season in the D-League following an ill-fated run at Georgia Tech. NBA teams increasingly see the D-League as a route to basketball’s highest level.

Rice performed well in the D-League over 48 games, though. This is only one for Hairston so far.

But there’s a long season ahead for Hairston to establish his value, and at least he has a chance to prove himself.