LAS VEGAS — Not all the news from USA Basketball’s blowout win over the Dominican Republic in their exhibition opener Thursday night at UNLV was good news.
As the U.S. players made their way from the locker room after the game, word spread Los Angeles Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin, who went home earlier in the day with a sore left knee, was diagnosed with a torn left meniscus and will require surgery early next week, per The Los Angeles Times. He is expected to miss eight weeks, costing him his spot on the Olympic team and putting a huge scare into the Clippers, who signed him to a five-year extension worth $95 million, just two days ago.
No one took the news harder than Griffin’s All-Star teammate Chris Paul, who was informed of the news as he walked up to the assembled media awaiting the team as they exited the locker room.
“Wow. That’s a tough one. It’s a huge blow,” Paul said. “One of the things I was looking most forward to in this whole Olympic experience was being with him, so we both could grow a little bit as players and things like that. But his health comes before anything, so I’m going to go call him and check on him.”
Griffin joins a long list of U.S. stars who will miss the games due to injury, a group that already included Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Derrick Rose, Chauncey Billups and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Hornets rookie Anthony Davis filled in for Griffin Thursday night and as an alternate might be tabbed to replace Griffin permanently, though there was no official word from USA Basketball after the game. Davis can’t officially replace Griffin until Griffin formally withdraws from the team.
Davis looked good in his debut, scoring eight points, including a four-point play, in just 10 minutes, all in the fourth quarter, of the 113-59 win.
“I haven’t heard anything other than I’m still an alternate,” Davis said. “No one has told me anything different.”
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said that Davis is the only candidate they are looking at to replace Griffin on the 12-man roster.
“He’s such a terrific kid. He has certain qualities that you just never know,” Colangelo said. “In a game situation, he might be called upon to do something. But he’s not a replacement for Blake. They are two different kind of players. Blake gave us size and strentgh and experience, obviously, and you just move on.”
Word spread quickly among the players that their ranks were being thinned by injury once again, just 17 days before they open the competition in London against France.
“You have to take that news very hard,” LeBron James said. “Blake’s a hard worker, one of the best young players we have in this league and you never want anyone to be injured. I wish him the fastest recovery.”
With the injury toll piling up the way it has, concerns about players staying healthy is no doubt going to be a hot topic among owners and players as summer league action heats up here and international exhibitions take place all over the globe.
“That only comes up when somebody gets hurt,” James said. “Honestly, you could get hurt doing anything. You could get hurt working out in the summer time. It sucks for him and it sucks for everyone that’s been hurt. You never want that to happen, especially in the summer time and like I said, I just wish him a fast and speedy recovery.”