P.J. Hairston led UNC with 23 points on Wednesday night at Duke. ROBERT WILLETT
CHAPEL HILL — Upon learning that he would enter North Carolina’s starting lineup for its game on Wednesday night at Duke, P.J. Hairston didn’t have much of a reaction. All he could think was, “OK. I’m ready.”
Hairston seemed to be. In his second start of the season, Hairston led the Tar Heels with 23 points, and he was their most consistent scorer during the second half of their 73-68 loss against the Blue Devils.
The question now is obvious: Will Hairston remain in the starting lineup? In this story, I wrote about why UNC coach Roy Williams decided to start Hairston on Wednesday. Williams said he considered making the move four or five games ago, and then Williams expressed disdain for people who questioned his lineup.
Said Williams: “I started to do it four or five games ago. But everybody was saying, well, you’re going to put P.J. in for somebody else. But nobody knows my team. But it’s popular to say who the hell’s supposed to be in the lineup and you don’t know what the dickens you’re talking about.”
The benefits of starting Hairston are obvious enough: He’s a capable scorer. He makes the Tar Heels a faster team more capable of running the way Williams wants. His presence provides better offensive spacing. And he creates defensive mismatches.
The drawbacks of starting Hairston are obvious, too. Against teams with strong frontcourts, Hairston could be a defensive liability against taller, stronger players who are accustomed to playing with their back to the basket.
So will he continue to start? Stay tuned …