July 12, 2012

Team USA's big man problem just got bigger.

According to a source close to Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, the All-Star is expected to miss the Olympics after suffering a left knee injury during the national team's practice in Las Vegas on Wednesday. The Clippers confirmed the development Thursday night, revealing in a statement that Griffin has a medial meniscus tear in his left knee that will require arthroscopic surgery soon but saying he is expected to be ready for training camp in October.

The source close to Griffin described the tear as "small" and said the early estimates are that he will be out of action for approximately six weeks. Griffin, who missed his rookie season (2009-10) because of a stress fracture and broken kneecap in the same knee and also injured it during last season's playoffs, signed a five-year extension worth up to $95 million on Tuesday. The source close to Griffin said that the injury isn't new but rather a flare-up dating back to Griffin sprained the left knee during Game 5 of the first round of the playoffs against Memphis.

"We're relieved that this does not affect Blake's ability to be ready in time for training camp," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said in the statement. "Missing out on the Olympic experience will be tough for him to take. I know how dedicated he was to doing that. We're glad we can get this fixed now and take advantage of the available time for him to fully recover."

After turning the knee during practice Wednesday but continuing to play, a second source with knowledge of the situation said Griffin woke up with swelling on Thursday morning before deciding to head to Los Angeles. He then underwent an MRI that was analyzed by Clippers physician, Dr. Steven Shimoyama and Dr. Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic.

Hornets power forward and Team USA alternate Anthony Davis was summoned to replace Griffin, and the No. 1 pick in the draft scored nine points in 10 fourth-quarter minutes of Thursday's 113-49 exhibition win over the Dominican Republic at UNLV. Davis is a Team USA alternate and is likely to be Griffin's replacement on the team.

"Blake is a proven commodity and if we don't have him, it's a big loss," Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters after the game. "He was playing really well for us."

Team USA was already dealing with a lack of depth in its frontcourt, with Griffin, Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love and Knicks center Tyson Chandler seen as the primary rebounders.

Davis, the No. 1 pick in last month's draft, is expected to suit up for Team USA's exhibition against the Dominican Republic on Thursday at UNLV. He's been a member of the U.S. select team but hasn't been participating in contract drills during the Americans' weeklong camp because of an ankle injury that he sustained on June 30.

"It's getting there," Davis said of his ankle on Sunday in Las Vegas. "[It's] about 75 percent right now, 75 to 80 percent. I'm getting there. I just want to come out here and try to make this team. It means a lot to represent your country. ... Playing with these pro guys is a great opportunity for me.

"I'm doing no contact still, trying to get healthy. I'm trying to aim for Tuesday, Wednesday, to get out here and start playing."

Griffin is merely the latest Team USA candidate to go down. That list includes Bulls point guard Derrick Rose (knee), Magic center Dwight Howard (back), Clippers point guard Chauncey Billups (Achilles), Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (hip), Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (knee) and Heat power forward Chris Bosh (abdominal strain).

Lakers center Andrew Bynum -- who would have been a natural fit to replace Howard -- passed on the opportunity to join Team USA because he plans to undergo the same knee procedure that teammate Kobe Bryant had last offseason.

Yahoo! Sports first reported Griffin's injury.

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