Charlotte Hornets

Source: Hornets don’t plan to exercise contract option on P.J. Hairston

Barring a last-minute change, the Charlotte Hornets do not plan to exercise the 2016-17 rookie contract option on former North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston.
Barring a last-minute change, the Charlotte Hornets do not plan to exercise the 2016-17 rookie contract option on former North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston. Getty Images

Barring a last-minute change of thinking, the Charlotte Hornets do not intend to exercise their contract option on shooting guard-small forward P.J. Hairston, an NBA source said Monday.

Hairston, who is currently starting for the Hornets, would make about $1.25 million for the 2016-17 season under the rookie scale for first-round picks. Under the collective bargaining agreement, rookies drafted in the first round are guaranteed two seasons, then the team has two one-season options before a player would become a restricted free agent.

The Hornets have until midnight Monday to exercise options, as they did with power forward Cody Zeller Monday afternoon. If P.J. Hairston’s option isn’t exercised, he would be an unrestricted free agent in July.

The Hornets have until midnight Monday to exercise options, as they did with power forward Cody Zeller Monday afternoon. If Hairston’s option isn’t exercised, he would be an unrestricted free agent in July.

While exercising these options are customary, the Hornets haven’t always let a drafted player go all the way through their rookie scale contract. Last summer, for instance, they chose not to exercise a qualifying offer to center Bismack Biyombo that would have restricted his free agency. Biyombo went on to sign with the Toronto Raptors.

The Hornets acquired the rights to Hairston on draft night in 2014 after the Miami Heat chose him 26th overall. This involved a pre-arranged deal where the Hornets chose Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier with the 24th pick. Napier went to Miami in return for Hairston, the draft rights to Semaj Christon, a future second-round pick and cash considerations.

Hairston came to the NBA from the developmental league, where he played after losing his NCAA eligibility at North Carolina. He became the first player in NBA history with D-League experience to be drafted in the first round.

Hairston had an up-and-down rookie season, averaging 5.6 points and two rebounds. Though he was known primarily for his long-range shooting he made only 30 percent of his shots from 3-point range.

Hairston played in 45 of 82 games as a rookie, starting twice. He was involved in an altercation with a high school player at a Durham YMCA just before the start of summer league his rookie year, which drew the attention of coach Steve Clifford.

“What I told him the other day is, we need to have more meetings about his defense and shot selection, and less about what he has to do to be a dependable player,” Clifford said two summers ago. “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.”

Hairston also missed two Hornets games last season over behavior issues. He was held out of a December game against the Boston Celtics after an unexcused absence from practice. And he was inactive for a March game against the Orlando Magic after missing a weight-training session.

Clifford inserted Hairston into the starting lineup this season as a fill-in starter for the injured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Clifford has praised Hairston of late for his defense in three starts so far this season.

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

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