UCLA Coach Ben Howland gives instructions to guard Lazeric Jones during… (Joe Nicholson / U.S. Presswire )
UCLA Coach Ben Howland said the potential of an NBA lockout would influence his advice to Bruins players deciding whether to declare for the draft, intimating that it might lead him to encourage them to return to college.
"I can tell you in the NBA, in my opinion, this is going to be a serious lockout," Howland said Tuesday. "They will not be playing, in my opinion, next December and maybe even January. … You're not even going to get paid next year for half the year."
Howland said he expected to meet with junior Malcolm Lee and sophomores Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson as soon as Monday to discuss their futures. College underclassmen have until April 24 to declare for the draft and can withdraw by May 8 to retain amateur eligibility, as long as they do not hire an agent.
Lee's ability to work out for NBA teams during the two-week window may be compromised after he underwent surgery Tuesday to repair damage to his left knee sustained this month.
During an hour-long procedure at the UCLA Medical Plaza, orthopedic surgeon David McAllister removed a two-millimeter piece of cartilage that was floating in Lee's knee and repaired a tear that accounted for about 2% of the meniscal cartilage in his knee.
Howland said Lee's recovery time was from one to two months, meaning the shooting guard might not be at full strength if he decided to showcase his skills for NBA teams next month.
Howland said any player projected to be among the top 15 picks in the draft has his blessing to declare; currently none of the Bruins fall into that category.
"I've done all the research," Howland said. "I mean, you look at the guys who get picked between 22 and 31 and where they are five years later versus guys who are one to 15, it's vastly different when you look at the career paths."
It appears the Bruins will play most of their home games next season at the Sports Arena and the Honda Center while the interior of Pauley Pavilion is renovated. UCLA will play host to Texas in the first game of a home-and-home series and will travel to play St. John's in February at Madison Square Garden. … Howland said he wanted 324-pound freshman center Joshua Smith to lower his body fat to 12% during off-season workouts. The coach would not divulge Smith's current percentage of body fat.