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Potential lockout complicates decisions of Knight, Jones - and Liggins, Lamb

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4613106.jpegAn NBA lockout is coming, so says Kentucky basketball head coach John Calipari, and that makes the decisions of Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones a lot tougher as they mull their futures in the NBA.

"This lockout really kind of screws everything up," Calipari said Wednesday during an exclusive roundtable discussion with local media. "I think a lot of kids are pulling their names because what if the lockout goes the whole year? What kind of mistake did you make?"

Knight and Jones have until April 24 to declare for the NBA Draft. Should they declare, they would have until May 8 to withdraw from the June 23 draft so long as they don't hire an agent.

Both players are projected as first-round draft picks in this year's class, but several factors, the current unsettled labor situation with the NBA chief among them, make the decisions of Kentucky's stud freshmen a little more complicated.

Knight and Jones could decide to take a chance on the lockout that Calipari insists is coming (Calipari pointed to the cancelation of this year's NBA summer league in Las Vegas as a strong indicator that it's imminent) and sign with agents. But Calipari wants to make sure they understand the potential pitfalls of their choices before they make a decision one way or the other.

As the UK head coach explained Wednesday, just because an agent fronts you money during the lockout doesn't mean that it's free money.

"They're loaned," Calipari said. "They're going to take you to L.A. with room service and all that and you're going to do that for two months. Who is paying for that? What about the workout guys, $20,000 a month? Who is paying for that? You're paying for that and you're not making any money. It's not as easy right now and I think that's why a lot of kids are coming back."

Calipari said he would never tell a kid to return to school if he has the chance to be a first-round pick. In most cases he's even insisted they leave and said Wednesday it would be a "no-brainer" for Knight and Jones to submit their names to at least test the waters.

But this year's lockout certainly clouds things.

"What I've told all these kids, whatever decision you make, there is only one person that has to live with it - them," Calipari said. "I don't have to live with it, your mom and dad doesn't have to live with it, your friend who tells you he knows what's going on in the NBA doesn't have to live with it. Whether you come back, you have to live with it."

Considering a jump to the NBA also includes junior DeAndre Liggins and freshmen Doron Lamb.

While not on most draft boards, Calipari said Liggins could benefit from exposure at combines, although he's warned Liggins that one bad showing could forever alter how scouts and NBA general managers view him.

"What if he goes to New Jersey or he works out here for us and somebody says, 'We're going to take him in the first round,' " Calipari said. "Then I might sit down and say, 'You know what, kid, think about it.' "

Calipari thinks Lamb could stand to benefit from returning and putting on 15 more pounds of weight.

"In Doron's case, all the things he's done, he is on the board," Calipari said. "Now he's got to get stronger, get tougher. If he gains 15 pounds of muscle weight, in my opinion he'll be a lottery pick in a year from now. That's what I think. His feel for the game is as good as anyone out there."

But what if he chooses to bypass his sophomore year?

"That would be fine," Calipari said.

A player can only test the draft waters once without an agent. That means if Knight, Jones or Lamb decide to declare this year without an agent and return to school, they could not repeat the process at any other point in their careers.

Making the situation even more intriguing is the number of high-profile players that have said they're coming back. Headlining the group are Baylor's Perry Jones and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger. Both were considered top-five picks.

Whether or not they decided to return to school because of the potential lockout is unclear, but the absence of their names certainly makes this year a weaker draft, raises the stock of players like Knight and Jones, and adds to the enticement of leaving early.

Of course, so much can happen between April 24 and the day of the draft. The actual draft lottery isn't until after the players must declare, creating an uncertain draft position for each team. And while players like Perry Jones and Sullinger say they're not turning pro this year, they still have a couple of weeks to submit their names.

Calipari said his players understand the magnitude of the decisions they're about to make.

"This (draft) is all over the map," Calipari said. "What if (Perry Jones and Sullinger) put their names back in because someone hits them in the mouth and says, 'You're the fourth pick in the draft. Who talked you into staying and why did they talk you into staying?' We don't know but that could happen."

The thought of Knight, Jones, Liggins and Lamb all returning to join next year's No. 1 signing class of Anthony Davis, Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Kyle Wiltjer has crossed Calipari's mind. In fact, Calipari seemed to salivate at the thought of having Knight and Teague in the same backcourt.

"It would be scary," Calipari said.

But the impending decisions of his current players have not affected how he's continued to recruit or prepare for next year's team. Calipari said they've moved forward in trying to add one or two more players for next year, and he's not concerned with playing time in the case of a much larger roster next year.

"That is the least of my worries," Calipari said. "We will have guys like Anthony Davis who will do whatever I ask him to do. Those kids want to be part of a winning program and they want to be coached and challenged."

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