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P.J. Hairston's jumper has made him an unlikely bright spot

Not all is doom and gloom in Buzz City — P.J. Hairston is showing off an improved jumper and possibly playing his way back into Charlotte's future plans.

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Things are not going well in Charlotte right now. The Hornets have yet to win a game since the start of the new year. They are dealing with injuries, a sputtering offense and a defense that is a shell of its former glory. Over their last ten games, the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers (both 3-7) have better records than Charlotte does (2-8).

It is dark times for those who wear the purple and teal.

But, even in the darkness, there is still some light that shines though — even from the most unlikely of sources.

In this case, that unlikely source is P.J. Hairston.

Hairston's road to not just to Charlotte, but the NBA, was the one far less traveled. To refresh your memory, he got in legal hot waters twice while at the University of North Carolina, left college midway through the season after he was suspended to join the NBA's Developmental League, was a first round draft pick of the Miami Heat — and was then traded to the Hornets, was represented by an agent who was not certified by the National Basketball Players Association, and saw star NFL receiver Josh Gordan get arrested for a DWI — while driving Hairston's car.

All this before his rookie training camp ever started.

Since then, Hairston has been clean off the court — at least in legal matters. He spent most of his rookie season traveling back and forth from Steve Clifford's dog house. It has not even been a full year since Clifford spoke the following words about the then-rookie:

"P.J., to me, has the chance to be a very good player. His approach has to be where he is constantly learning what the NBA game is about. He’s hasn’t done that well."

"Potentially he could be a starter. He can shoot with range and rebounds for his position. But he hasn’t developed any way to play to make his teammates better."

—Steve Clifford to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer on March 3, 2015

Hairston would finish his first year in the Association averaging 5.6 points, 2 rebounds and 0.5 assists per game while posting a shooting line of .323/.301/.861. Hardly the type of numbers one would expect from someone drafted 26th overall.

The 2015-2016 season did not look promising for Hairston. The Hornets had retooled their roster, leaving the second-year pro in the middle of a crowded field including the likes of Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lin, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, Jeremy Lamb and Troy Daniels for playing time at shooting guard or small forward.When Kidd-Gilchrist suffered an injury that would likely cause him to miss most of the season, Clifford named Hairston as the starter in his absence.

But Hairston's role of starter was a unique one, filled with more cameo appearances than starting roles in Hornets games. A little more than a month into the regular season, Hairston was playing just 17 minutes a game, averaging 4.2 points per game while shooting .318/.267/.917. It got to the point where fans began to question not just why he was starting, but he was being given playing time at all.

It looked like Hairston was pushing, trying to do too much. Perhaps he was. He is scheduled to become a free agent this season after Charlotte did not pick up his option. The team did, however, sign Lamb to an extension after he played just two games in a Charlotte uniform. The news was surprising to many.

Now, it is dangerous to assume how someone else would react to such news, but most normal humans would go one of two ways: positively or negatively. To Hairston's credit, he seems to have used this as fuel for his fire — a fire that started burning bright in mid-December.

Something happened then, starting with the December 16th matchup against the Orlando Magic. The stat line looks simple enough — 22 minutes, 14 points, two rebounds, 5-for-11 from the field, 3-for-7 from deep. It was a season-high for Hairston in points in shots attempted. From that point, Hariston's confidence has risen, as has his playing time and his stats.

From December 16 to this day, Hairston is averaging 8.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.6 assists per game while shooting 38 percent from the floor (+6.2 percent increase from the first part of the season), 38.2 percent from 3 (+11.5 percent) and an effective field goal percentage of 50 percent (+6.4 percent increase). Hairston's rise in shooting has been something the suddenly offensively-stricten Hornets have sorely needed.

And the most likely reason for the rise? Hairston has become better and more efficient with his catch-and-shoot jumper — the vast majority of which come from behind the 3-point line. Prior to December 16, nearly 70 percent of his shots were of the catch-and-shoot variety, and he was only making 26.2 percent of those shots. Since December 16, 58.3 percent of Hairston's shots are catch-and-shoot, and he is making 38.1 percent of said shots, with an effective field goal percentage of 57.1 percent.

To recap, in the span of around two months, Hairston has gone from questionable starter that the Charlotte Hornets would not want after this season to solid rotation player who most likely has Rich Cho and the team's front office rethinking what exactly they want to do with Hairston once the season is over.

P.J. Hairston's road has always been the one less traveled. But it has helped him become a positive spot in an otherwise down time for Buzz City.