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Sides conflict as details emerge following Hairston pickup game altercation

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Ed Zurga

Surprise! Neither P.J. Hairston or Kentrell Barkley, the high school player he punched, can agree as to what happened in the events that happened Sunday night at a pickup game in Durham.

Hairston's agent, Juan Morrow, speaking on behalf of him, said that tempers flared during the game, Barkley initiated contact by shoving, Hairston shoved back, Barkley punched, and then Hairston punched back.

"He swung at P.J. and P.J. swung back," Hairston's agent said in an interview with Rick Bonnell. He claims that both connected on their punches and that the police were not called.

Barkley, on the other hand, offered a more detailed story in his interview with ESPN, saying Hairston punched him without warrant as he went up the court, and then Hairston hit him again when Barkley asked him why he hit him.

Barkley said Hairston left before the police arrived, at which time he filed a police report and said he would be pressing charges. Durham police apparently did not have any information about the confrontation when ESPN contacted them Sunday night.

He also says there's video that will confirm his story when the YMCA releases it.

Morrow says Hairston will join the team tomorrow for practice and that he's spoken with Hornets GM Rich Cho and head coach Steve Clifford.

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This situation doesn't really bother me too much in a vacuum. Pickup games get heated sometimes. That doesn't mean punching people at pickup games can't be avoided, and I'll go out on a ledge and say people shouldn't punch people over sports. Especially when one of those people is still in high school.

However, it does bother me that Hairston should know the spotlight is going to be much bigger jumping from college or the D-League to the NBA, and his past magnifies that, unfairly or not.

I can't make the same jump in logic that his arrest for marijuana, speeding trouble or rented cars hinted that this conduct would follow, but he had to recognize that there's a small margin for public misdeeds at this level and a higher publicity.

There are probably still details to come, and it's not the biggest off-court problem, but if it is how Barkley says, Hairston's lack of awareness in this avoidable incident is disappointing. The Hornets will have to be responsible and swift with their reaction once this all gets sorted out to keep public trust that they won't tolerate off-court problems.