Blake Griffin out of Olympics with torn meniscus

6:32 AM, Jul 13, 2012   |    comments
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LAS VEGAS (USA TODAY) -- Injuries mount for the U.S. men's basketball team, the latest being Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin is out of the London Games with a meniscus tear in his left knee.

This is the same knee Griffin sprained in the NBA playoffs.

"If we don't have (Griffin), that's a big loss. He was playing really well for us," U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Griffin will need arthroscopy, but Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said he is "relieved" that his All-Star should be ready for the start of NBA training camp.

"Missing out on the Olympic experience will be tough for him to take. I know how dedicated he was to doing that," Del Negro said in a statement. "We're glad we can get this fixed now and take advantage of the available time for him to fully recover."

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said there had been no indication anything was wrong after practice Wednesday, the same day Griffin signed a five-year extension with the Clippers that could be worth as much as $95 million. But Griffin awoke Thursday with swelliing and discomfort.

There is a thought that Griffin aggravated a pre-existing injury during Wednesday's practice. Colangelo told USA TODAY Sports Thursday that Griffin considered having the knee scoped to check for any issues after the season, but chose not to do so.

"He showed no indication of any problem at all since he's been here. Obviously, he may have tweaked it," Colangelo said.

A video of Wednesday's practice revealed Griffin had a collision with U.S. select team point guard John Wall of the Washington Wizards. Driving to the basket, Wall -- with his left leg -- clipped Griffin's left knee. Later in the practice, a trainer placed a soft brace on Griffin's left knee.

Colangelo phoned forward Anthony Davis, the No. 1 overall pick by the New Orleans Hornets in the June draft, and asked him to re-join the team for practice. Davis was one of the finalists to make the 12-man Olympic roster, but a sprained ankle prevented him from practicing with the team last week.

Davis remained in Las Vegas as a member of the U.S. select team (although he traveled to Los Angeles for the ESPYs on Wednesday) that scrimmaged against the Olympic team, although limited to being a spectator as his ankle healed. But he had made enough progress that he was available Thursday night in the exhibition game against the Dominican Republic, and checked into the game at the start of the fourth quarter for some minutes.

There had been hope that Davis could participate in some of the Hornets' Summer League games in Las Vegas later in the week or early next week.

"The report that we got is that he was very active blocking shots and getting up and down the court," Colangelo said of Davis' recent workouts.

USA Basketball men's national team director Sean Ford told USA TODAY Sports late Thursday that he has been in contact with the United States Olympic Committee to ensure the process to remove Griffin from the 12-man roster and add Davis is done correctly.

Griffin needs to withdraw officially before Davis can be added, and Griffin has not done that yet.

"Once that happens, then we will take the next step and add Anthony," Colangelo said.

Without Griffin, the USA is left without another somewhat experienced and skilled big man, an area where the Americans are undermanned. Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks is the only true center, and Griffin was one of several players expected to play center at times and provide physical play against teams with size, such as Spain and Brazil. The USA plays Brazil in an exhibition game Monday in Washington, D.C.

"Blake has guard (Spain forward Pau) Gasol. Blake one of the best players in the league," Colangelo said. "Anthony Davis at some time is going to be one of the best players in the league. Blake is a proven commodity."

Davis will travel with the U.S. to Washington for national team practices Saturday and Sunday and its exhibition game against Brazil. While Davis has no international or NBA experience, Kentucky coach John Calipari, who also coached the Dominican Republic, likes the opportunity for Davis.

"I know what Coach (Krzyzewski) did with Derrick Rose (at the 2010 world championship)," Calipari said. "I coached Derrick Rose and one year in this organization (USA Basketball), Derrick Rose's game was elevated, no question. Being around professional winners that also sacrifice for each other and have a commitment to getting better will push Anthony Davis' career ahead two years in my opinion. He's got a ways to go in a short period of time to be able to get in and have the kind of impact they'll need him to have when he's on that floor.

"But he can guard pick-and-rolls. He can switch on little guards. He can guard out to the three-point line and still be able to block a shot. But I think he's just feeling his way. He's not going to try to be the man. That's not his style. But he'll be able to help. But it's going to be a tremendous thing for him in his career."

Although Griffin has no international experience, he has excelled in his two NBA seasons. He averaged 20.7 points and 10.9 rebounds last season, getting voted an All-Star starter and named second-team All-NBA.

The Olympic team has been hit with injury after injury, forcing Colangelo to add names to the player pool and select a team different from the one anticipated in January.

Since USA Basketball announced the 20-man preliminary roster in January, five players have withdrawn because of injuries: Chauncey Billups, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Lamar Odom withdrew to concentrate on the 2012-13 season.

Davis and James Harden were added to the preliminary roster in May, with Harden already making the 12-man team.

Griffin sustained a stress fracture in his left kneecap in October 2009, just before what would have been his rookie season. He underwent surgery in January 2010, and missed the 2009-2010 season.

Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY

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