Five months ago, zero people would've guessed that P.J. Hairston would be the starting small forward for the Charlotte Hornets. No fans. No players. No members of their front office.
But here we are, a few days before Christmas, and Hairston has started 24 games. Considering the fact that he's shooting 34 percent overall and 31 percent behind the three-point line, what gives? Here's a rational explanation courtesy of The Charlotte Observer:
The Hornets are actually a tad better on offense with Hairston on the court this season, but defensively they struggle. That could have to do with the fact that Hairston goes up against starters (aka better competition) though, and it might not be smart to mess up the chemistry on a bench unit that's tearing up the league right now.
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But, regardless, Hairston isn't the long-term answer.
The Hornets took a major hit during the preseason when small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist tore a labrum, requiring shoulder surgery. The plan at the wing positions was for Kidd-Gilchrist to be the defensive stopper and for Nic Batum to facilitate the offense. Clifford didn’t feel it was realistic to ask Batum to be the offensive centerpiece and make him continuously guard the opposing team’s best scorer. That was going to lead to foul trouble the Hornets couldn’t afford. Clifford experimented with starting Jeremy Lamb or Jeremy Lin during the preseason and didn’t see a great fit. So he went to Hairston with an idea: Be a starter with the agenda of playing tough defense: Give fouls, make the opposing star work for his points and don’t worry about your minutes or whether you play late in games.