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.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.

Kawhi Leonard is smiling, and that confuses Manu Ginobili (PHOTO)

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Much like Kevin Durant, it appears that Kawhi Leonard is having a great summer.

In fact, this appears to be the Summer of Kawhi Smiling. Which, according to one of his longtime teammates, is a bit confusing.

When the Spurs posted a photo of Leonard with a big old grin on his face to their Twitter feed recently, San Antonio legend Manu Ginobili responded asking the team whether something was up.

Specifically, Ginobili said that he had seen more photos of Leonard smiling in the past two days then he had in six seasons as a teammate.

Via Twitter:

You can leave an anonymous tip about why Kawhi Leonard is smiling so much by contacting the produce manager at your local H-E-B.

Kobe is the Lakers’ all-time leader in steals (and other trivia rookies don’t know)

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“He played 20 years … I mean, yeah I guess.”

That’s what Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball had to say in this video after learning that Kobe Bryant was the all-time leader in steals for his franchise. You have to hand it to him, it is a little surprising. Even more surprising is that Bryant has 220 more than Magic Johnson at No. 2.

In a video posted to YouTube by Complex on Saturday, rookies tried to answer questions similar to the one Ball pondered over, like what team drafted their head coach, who the NBA all-time leading scorer is, and what day the first game of the season starts on.

A lot of the responses were pretty funny, including the guys getting wrong what year Adam Silver became NBA commissioner. Poor David Stern has already been forgotten about!

Meanwhile, Ball looked the sharpest. He’s going to come in handy when the Lakers play pub trivia.