Three Kentucky stars say they likely return. Well, they say that now.

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Here is a sentence we will be retyping a lot over the next few weeks:

Never believe what a college player says about his future in the minutes after he is eliminated from the NCAA Tournament. In the emotion of the moment they almost always say they will return, then upon reflection in a few weeks, with the temptation of the NBA money out there, some change their minds. Whether they should or not. It happens every year.

In Kentucky, Nerlens Noel is gone. Well, he’s not talking but I’m stunned if he stays. Despite the ACL injury he is pretty much a lock top 3 NBA draft pick and possible No. 1 overall.

But what about Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin? Well, after Kentucky’s NIT loss to Robert Morris Tuesday they all told Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com that they are leaning toward returning to Kentucky.

“I don’t know if it’s a question whether I’m going [to the NBA] or not,” Goodwin said. “I don’t think I’m ready to go. It’s no reason why I think any of our guys should really leave. We should come back next year … and just try to do better than what we did this year. Because the expectations we had for ourselves this year, we didn’t meet them at all. We didn’t come close. So I think think that’s what says we should all come back…”

Poythress was asked whether he thinks he will stay in school: “Yeah, I do. I don’t think I’m ready [for the NBA]. I don’t even think I’m ready for — you’ve just got to get used to it. You’ve just gotta come back and be focused on the offseason. That’s when you get better and just continue to regroup and come back and maybe next year we can have a better year. We’ll have a lot of leadership, a lot of veteran players. This year we had a couple….”

Cauley-Stein was less definitive, noting he will “absolutely” weigh his NBA stock. But he added that “I really want a ring before I leave college” and when asked about Goodwin’s comment that the Wildcat prospects are not ready for the pros, Cauley-Stein said: “I have no idea. I can’t speak for anybody else. I’m not. I feel like I left something out. Something’s missing. I’ve got this empty feeling in my gut and I want to fill it.”

Again, take it with a grain of salt. We’ll see what they say in a few weeks.

Poythress is a possible lottery pick; DraftExpress.com has him at 15 in this draft. He’s an athletic wing with a lot of potential who can defend and play at both ends. Problem is he is very inconsistent and there are questions about his motivation and desire.

Goodwin is a two guard who would go middle of the first round this year. Again very athletic (aren’t all Kentucky players lately) who can score shooting from the outside or driving the lane. He needs to learn to pick his spots better (especially in the NBA where he will be a role player) but again teams like his potential

Cauley-Stein is raw and really would benefit more than the other two from another year in college (which is why DraftExpress.com lists him in their 2014 draft class). But he’s a mobile, athletic 7’0” center and you know how NBA teams are desperate for quality bigs, so he would go in the middle of the first round somewhere if he came out. But if you draft him he’s a project. He’s athletic but needs a whole lot of polish. Still, not a bad gamble for a team.

Those guys are first round picks, three years guaranteed NBA money if they come out now. It may not be the best thing for all of them, but I but at least two jump to the NBA next season.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.