RALEIGH, N.C. — Charlotte Hornets rookie P.J. Hairston says he and Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl receiver Josh Gordon decided to swap vehicles following a chance meeting at a grocery store. Gordon was arrested for driving while impaired in Hairston’s 2015 Cadillac Escalade in Raleigh.
That random encounter brought together two athletes who have had their share of troubles.
Hairston said Thursday he was at a Chapel Hill hotel last week and went to the nearby store where he recognized Gordon and struck up a conversation. When they went outside, Hairston said, Gordon saw his SUV and asked to switch cars for a day.
“He had a Mercedes and I said, ‘OK, let’s switch,’” Hairston said after summer league practice in Charlotte. “I was just being generous. I have a thing for saying yes and felt like that wasn’t a big deal. It was not like he was going to mess something up with my car if I had his car.”
But Gordon was arrested for DWI on Saturday. Then a day later, a high school basketball player said Hairston punched him during a pickup game at a YMCA in nearby Durham, leading to an August court hearing for Hairston.
Gordon’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, declined comment Thursday. It remains unclear why Gordon, a Houston native, was in the state.
Hairston said he was not with Gordon when he was arrested.
But the incidents also revealed both Hairston and Gordon are tied to Durham felon and party promoter Haydn Patrick “Fats” Thomas, who was involved in Hairston’s exit from the Tar Heels men’s basketball program last year. And it was the kind of weekend both athletes would rather forget.
“I’m still growing up,” Hairston said. “I still have a lot of growing up to do. In life, you make mistakes and it’s something I will learn from again.”
Gordon was released on $500 bond and records show it was paid by Thomas, who declined comment Thursday when reached by The Associated Press about his relationship with Gordon. Last year, authorities twice cited Hairston in Durham — once leading to a later-dismissed misdemeanor marijuana possession charge — while driving vehicles rented under Thomas’ name or address.
Hairston missed the first 10 games before UNC decided not to seek his reinstatement from the NCAA due to several violations, ending his college career.
“I wasn’t disappointed because I didn’t think it would get to the point where it is now,” Hairston said. “Once I realized that he had connections with people that had got me in trouble in the past, then I realized it’s probably going to be a problem.”
Hairston played in the NBA Development League for the Texas Legends, then Miami picked him in the first round of last month’s draft before trading him to the Hornets.
“What I told him the other day is we need to start having more meetings about his defense and shot selection,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said, “and less about what he’s got to do to be a dependable player.”
The arrest was particularly bad timing for Gordon, who is awaiting another possible NFL suspension for reportedly failing a drug test — a violation that could cost the 23-year-old at least a full season.
Gordon entered the league after a troubled career at Baylor as a second-round supplemental draft pick in 2012. He was suspended two games last season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, but still led the league with 1,646 yards receiving.
In May, he was ticketed in Strongsville for speeding and a passenger in his car was cited for marijuana possession. Gordon pleaded not guilty, and a pretrial hearing scheduled for today has been continued until Aug. 15.
Gordon was at the team’s recent minicamp, but has declined interviews.
As for Hairston, he said he will stay away from Durham.
“I don’t have a reason to be back there,” he said. “I have a job now so I can’t risk my job any more. Now I have guys here I can play ball with so I don’t need to be anywhere else.”