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Hornets’ P.J. Hairston: Chance meeting at grocery store led to car swap with Josh Gordon

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/10/12/15/kWjmq.Em.138.jpeg|230
    Chuck Burton - AP
    Charlotte Hornets rookie P.J. Hairston said a chance meeting with the Cleveland Browns’ Josh Gordon at a Triangle grocery store led to a car swap for the evening. Gordon was later arrested for DWI in Hairston’s car.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/10/18/36/GnmXj.Em.138.jpeg|237
    - AP
    From left are June 2014 file photos showing Charlotte Hornets rookie P.J. Hairston and Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl receiver Josh Gordon. Hairston says he met Gordon at a grocery store, the two decided to swap cars and the rest is history." What Hairston described Thursday, July 10, 2014, as a chance meeting ended up tying together two athletes who have had trouble staying out of trouble _ just ahead of a weekend in which both found more of it. (AP Photo/File)

Charlotte Hornets rookie P.J. Hairston said he met Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon at a Chapel Hill grocery store, which eventually led to Gordon driving Hairston’s Cadillac when he was arrested on a DWI charge in Raleigh.

According to Hairston, he switched cars with Gordon sometime Friday night, taking Gordon’s Mercedes. Gordon was arrested early Saturday morning.

“Me and Josh Gordon met at the Fresh Market in Chapel Hill,” Hairston said Thursday after a Hornets summer-league practice. “I walked there to get food and happened to run into him in there.

“I am a football fan so I knew who he was. Right away, we started talking about football, basketball and we walked outside. He saw my car and asked me ‘What are you doing?’ He asked if I minded if we switched cars and we exchanged numbers and he was going to drive my car that night and bring it back to me.

“I said OK, and we switched cars. The rest of that is history.”

Hairston added he wasn’t with him when Gordon was arrested.

According to court documents, Gordon was bailed out by Haydn Patrick “Fats” Thomas, a convicted felon and party promoter who has been linked previously to Hairston as the supplier of a rental car Hairston used while playing for North Carolina. That was declared an improper benefit by the NCAA, eventually resulting in Hairston losing his college eligibility.

“Once I realized that he had connections with people that got me in trouble in the past, I figured it would probably be a problem,” Hairston said.

This is the first time Hairston has done an interview since last weekend. He got into an altercation with high school basketball player Sunday at a Durham YMCA. On Monday, Durham authorities issued a summons of assault-and-battery for Hairston, resulting from that incident.

Asked about the fight in Durham, Hairston said, “I’m still growing up. I still have a lot of growing up to do. In life, you make mistakes and it’s something I will learn from again.”

Hornets coach Steve Clifford was asked Monday about Hairston’s behavior, and whether this pattern is raising concerns.

“What I told him the other day is, we need to start having more meetings about his defense and shot selection, and less about what he’s got to do to be a dependable player,” Clifford said.

“The guys who do the right things off the floor give themselves the chance to do the right things on the floor. That just makes sense. It all fits together.

“I told him I’ll commit to him – I like so much about him – but the commitment comes with the trust, the understanding that he’s got to be a dependable, professional player who’s accountable to himself, his teammates and our franchise every day.”

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell
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