Anthony Davis, the top 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 favourites.
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 today.
The roster move may further weaken the powerhouse US team in the one area they are short - at the center position - and could be exposed when they face teams with a big frontcourt.
"We're sorry to have received confirmation of Blake's injury, which has forced his withdrawal from the USA team for this summer," Colangelo said. "Blake worked extremely hard in our training camp and certainly would've 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 2.08m (6ft 10in) Davis was the consensus college Player of the Year after his freshman season at the University of Kentucky this year, was one of six alternates on the USA roster. He was selected by the New Orleans Hornets with the first overall pick in the June draft.
Davis (19) scored nine points against the Dominican Republic in the USA's 113-59 exhibition victory yesterday 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.
But his lack of experience and strength could represent a falloff from the established Griffin, known for his rim-rattling dunks, who averaged 20.7 points and 10.9 rebounds for the Clippers last season.
He's the latest in a string of American players hit by injuries ahead of the London Olympics.
Orlando Magic centre Dwight Howard, Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, and Miami's forward Chris Bosh and guard Dwyane Wade have already been ruled out due to injuries.
With 2.10m 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 centre, with Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks the only specialist on the roster.
While Davis is a rebounder and shot-blocker, he's young and slender compared to the solidly-built Griffin, who has experience guarding the likes of Spain's Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers and was counted on to fill in at centre 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, but Blake is a proven commodity."
US 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 US 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 defence, they limited the Dominicans to just 31.7 percent shooting and forced 27 turnovers.
"I was pleased with the unselfishness of our team, the defensive intensity and the fact that we really shared the ball," Krzyzewski said. "We got a lot of minutes for everybody tonight."