(Reuters) - Anthony Davis, the number one pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, will replace injured Blake Griffin on the United States squad at the London Olympics in the latest shakeup to the roster of the gold-medal favorites.
Griffin, a two-time National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star forward with the Los Angeles Clippers, has a medial meniscus tear in his left knee and will miss the London Games, USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo said on Friday.
The roster move may further weaken the powerhouse U.S. team in the one area in which they are short, at the center position, and could be exposed when they face teams with a big frontcourt.
“We are sorry to have received confirmation of Blake’s injury which has forced his withdrawal from the USA Team for this summer,” Colangelo said in a statement.
“Blake worked extremely hard in our training camp and certainly would have been a valuable contributor. This is another unfortunate injury, but we have to continue to move on and we’re very fortunate to have Anthony Davis available.”
The 6-foot-10 (2.08 meter) Davis, who as a University of Kentucky freshman last season was the consensus college Player of the Year, was one of six alternates on the USA roster.
Davis, 19, was selected by the New Orleans Hornets with the number one overall pick in the June draft. He scored nine points against the Dominican Republic in the USA’s 113-59 exhibition victory Thursday night after entering in the fourth quarter.
“Anthony offers our team additional height and length, and this will be an incredible experience for him,” said Colangelo.
His lack of experience and strength, however, could represent a falloff from the established Griffin.
Griffin, also 6-foot-10 and known for his rim-rattling dunks, averaged 20.7 points and 10.9 rebounds for the Clippers last season.
He is the latest in a string of U.S. players hit by injuries ahead of the July 27-August 12 London Games.
Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, and Miami’s center/forward Chris Bosh and guard Dwyane Wade have already been ruled out due to injuries.
With 6-foot-11 power forward LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trail Blazers another injury victim, the one area in which the U.S. team might be short is at center with Tyson Chandler of the Knicks the only true center on the roster.
While Davis is a rebounder and shot-blocker, he is young and slender compared to the solidly built Griffin, who has experience guarding the likes of Spain’s frontcourt player Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers and was being counted on to fill in at center for the Americans.
“Blake is 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.”
U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski, who led the team to a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said not having Griffin was a big loss, and that Davis would probably be used as an end of the bench reserve.
Depth of talent is a hallmark of this U.S. team, which routed the Dominican Republic in their first Olympic warm-up game despite getting only seven points from LeBron James and four points from Kobe Bryant.
Playing a suffocating, ball-hawking defense, the U.S. team limited the Dominicans to just 31.7 percent shooting, and forced 27 turnover
“I was pleased with the unselfishness of our team,” Krzyzewski said. “The defensive intensity, the fact that we really shared the ball. We got a lot of minutes for everybody tonight.”
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington and Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue