UK players gain experience playing with LeBron, Durant

Not many people stop LeBron James.

So when Anthony Davis said he, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Terrence Jones, who switched off turns trying to stop a man who NBA defenders have trouble guarding, “kind of” stopped James when he swung through UK to play pickup with the players, that’s pretty impressive.

But it did come with a clarifier.

“But you know, it’s LeBron,” Davis said. “So he’s still going to score.”

The plethora of NBA stars who stopped by Lexington as the lockout continues benefited UK in a variety of ways. For Davis, who admits he is uncomfortable down low, to learn some low-post moves from the best.

“I’ve been working out with DeMarcus (Cousins) and Nazr (Mohammed),” Davis said. “They’re showing me some new shots, post moves.”

Freshman point guard Marquis Teague reiterated the same thought, as he went up against the likes of Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Rondo’s more of a true point guard. He doesn’t score a lot, but he can score if he needs to,” Teague said, whose brother Jeff plays for the Atlanta Hawks. “Russell Westbrook is coming at you every time. He’s not backing off at all, not easing up. He’s trying to dunk it on you or score on you every single play.”

Terrence Jones said UK competed hard against the NBA players and largely held their own, although he hedged how much could be taken from that.

“It’s hard to really say,” Jones said. “It’s hard to compare them in an open gym against what they really play like in the NBA.”

Doron Lamb said he guarded Kevin Durant and James Harden from the Thunder.

As for Kyle Wiltjer, the return of former UK players shows exactly the type of family atmosphere John Calipari is trying to build. Wiltjer said the current UK group is already close, and seeing Calipari offer staff positions to Rondo and Mohammed if they choose to return to school, as he did Thursday, reinforces that.

“This is one of the closest teams I’ve played on,” Wiltjer said. “And then seeing all the NBA guys to come back, it’s pretty amazing that they’re comfortable enough to come back, and see Coach Cal, and use our facilities. It’s a great family atmosphere.”

Calipari loves having the players back in town (and potentially sportswriters, as Calipari quipped, since they don’t have an NBA to write about and the closest approximation is in Lexington). It shows his current team how much work goes into becoming a star, and it proves how much he cares about his players.

“They are loyal to the program, to me personally,” Calipari said. “They know I’m loyal to them and they are not going to hurt the program.”