Texas Legends Coup

Dallas Mavericks get low-risk test drive with new Legend P.J. Hairston

Dallas Mavericks get low-risk test drive with new Legend P.J. Hairston

The Dallas Mavericks are an old team by NBA standards — in fact by any pro-sports standard. Head coach Rick Carlisle was rather blunt about it earlier this season.

“We’re slow,” he said. “We’re slow and old, and that’s not a good combination.”

The Mavs drafted guard Shane Larkin, re-signed athletic center Brandan Wright and lured former Mavs guard Devin Harris back to the fold. They signed one of Israel’s top players in Gal Mekel.

 Hairston will work with coaches affiliated with the Mavericks in an attempt to reaffirm his status as a first-round pick.

Now, perhaps, they have the inside track to a shooting forward that could solve some of those “old and slow” problems.

The Texas Legends drafted P.J. Hairston on Tuesday, a move that came during the NBA D-League’s equivalent of a player draft. The Legends made Hairston the No. 1 overall pick. The selection is important to the Mavericks in that they run the Legends, as Mavs president Donnie Nelson owns the team and former Mavs forward Eduardo Najera is the head coach.

If you follow college basketball, you know Hairston. The 6-foot-6 forward was a McDonald’s All-American in high school and one of the jewels of North Carolina’s 2011 recruiting class. Last season as a sophomore he led the Tar Heels in scoring at 14.6 points per game, and most college basketball experts saw Hairston as a potential ACC Player of the Year candidate.

Instead Hairston ran afoul of the NCAA after he was cited for speeding and reckless driving in July of last year, which led to a team suspension. That led to a NCAA probe that revealed he was driving rental cars provided by boosters and party promoters. The NCAA stripped him of his eligibility, and when the Tar Heels opted not to seek Hairston’s reinstatement last month, he was left to determine his future.

Hairston represents a low-risk investment for the Mavericks. They can’t protect him by calling him up to the parent club; NBA rules prohibit it. So Hairston will still be eligible for the 2014 NBA draft when it comes around in June.

What the next six months represents is a test drive of sorts for the organization. Hairston will work with coaches affiliated with the Mavericks in an attempt to reaffirm his status as a first-round pick. People like Nelson, who will inevitably be around the team’s home base in Frisco, can get to know Hairston on a deeper level than they might during a one- or two-month scouting process had Hairston played in Chapel Hill this season.

The Mavs also get a chance to see where Hairston might fit on a 2014-15 roster. Hairston has length and shooting range and set a Tar Heels single-season record for 3-pointers last year. Shawn Marion and Vince Carter, both forwards, are closing in on the ends of their careers and the ends of their contracts.

Right now the heir apparent is Jae Crowder, a physical forward who can play great defense and give you some points, but he’s not a dynamic scorer. Hairston could give the Mavs the shooting range they would lose if Carter departs after the season.

Right now Hairston is projected as a late first-round pick. Assuming the Mavs make the playoffs, but don’t get too far, Hairston could fall right in their wheelhouse in the first round and they could select him again, this time getting the comfort that a rookie contract provides financially.

There’s really little risk for the Mavs and much to gain for Hairston, who isn’t your typical D-League player. Most are journeymen looking for a break. Hairston is a potential star in need of a short-term home.

And the Mavs get to test drive him for a little while. No harm there. Two things Hairston is not is old and slow.

P.J. Hairston of Texas Legends basketball
P.J. Hairston signed with the D-League's Texas Legends. GoHeels.com