We probably won't see Anthony Davis' smiling face on the U.S. sideline this summer. (Getty Images)
Hey, can you do me a favor? If you see any really tall guys who can tie their shoes, walk and chew gum at the same time, and — and this is critical — are NOT presently dealing with some sort of injury, can you point them toward USA Basketball Director Jerry Colangelo? He's running out of them, and he'd really appreciate having at least a couple of upright and healthy big men wearing red, white and blue before the 2012 Summer Olympics kick off on July 27.
[ Photos: NBA pros who withdrew from Olympic consideration ]
Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news Monday afternoon that Anthony Davis — the NCAA's 2011-12 National Player of the Year while a member of the Kentucky Wildcats, who last Thursday was chosen with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft — suffered a severely sprained ankle during a workout on Saturday that likely takes him out of the running for a roster spot with the U.S. men's national team that will compete in London this summer:
Davis, 19, had been invited with several players to work out for Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski prior to a July training camp in Las Vegas, but the injury has likely left the Hornets — and Davis — not wanting to risk the young star's participation, sources said.
With several key Team USA frontcourt players lost to injuries for the Olympics [...] Davis had an excellent chance to make the final roster.
Following Wojnarowski's report, ESPN.com's Marc Stein cited sources who placed the timetable for Davis to resume activities at "up to two weeks." Davis' new NBA team, the New Orleans Hornets, have listed the rookie as "day-to-day." After being apprised of Wojnarowski's report, Colangelo told SI.com's Sam Amick that he'd hold off making pronouncements about Davis' status "until we get an official doctor's report on what that means." According to Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the 6-foot-11 forward's Olympic status will be revisited later this week.
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The two-week timetable Stein's source suggests would put Davis back on the court before the Summer Games actually begin, but it would also mean he'd missed Team USA's entire training camp in Las Vegas, which begins Friday, July 6. Plus, as Woj notes, neither Davis nor the Hornets would seem too keen on starting his NBA career off on pins in any way compromised by a too-quick comeback from injury followed by the next-level strain of being forced into international competition. Davis' door to London isn't slammed just yet, but at this point, it would be something of a surprise for the 19-year-old to join the U.S. side this summer.
If the ankle sprain does force him to miss the Games, Davis would the most recent in an ever-growing list of prospective Olympians to bow out of Team USA due to injury.
On Friday, Chris Bosh withdrew his name from the USA Basketball roster so that he can rehab a strained abdominal muscle this summer. Bosh's statement came one day after his Miami Heat teammate, Dwyane Wade, announced that recovery from offseason knee surgery will keep him from representing his country. Earlier injuries have also eliminated NBA All-Stars Derrick Rose (knee surgery), Dwight Howard (back surgery), LaMarcus Alridge (hip surgery) and Chauncey Billups (Achilles tendon surgery) from national team consideration.
News of Davis' injury set the Internet rumor mill to churning, especially on Twitter, where NBA fans began calling out names of big men they'd like to see added to the U.S. team's roster to replace the raft of injured frontcourt players — young, talented guys like DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors, who are part of the 2012 select team that will practice against the national squad in the upcoming six-day training camp, and Greg Monroe, who is not. Such 11th-hour additions are unlikely, however; as Colangelo told Amick, "the roster finalists had already been submitted." Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press wrote that he believes there's "no chance USA is adding anyone else no matter how many get hurt," because USA Basketball has already postponed its roster selection from June 18 to July 7, when the choices will be televised in a prime-time special on NBA TV.
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Davis' injury represents a larger setback from a program-building perspective than it does in terms of Team USA's functioning on the court; given the power forward's prodigious shot-blocking talents and the chance that, at age 19, he'll be one of the foremost names in American hoops for many years to come, it would be very nice to get him some international seasoning on the senior team level in advance of the 2014 World Cup of Basketball (formerly the FIBA World Championships) and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. But while Davis likely wouldn't be counted on for very much in London, his absence would mean one fewer opportunity to add a big body to a roster that could use an infusion of size.
As I wrote Friday in discussing the impact of Bosh's injury on the U.S. team's chances, the absence of big bodies like Howard, Aldridge and Bosh is unlikely to hamstring Team USA against most teams the could face in London. While several countries will have lineups featuring multiple NBA-caliber big men — Brazil will play Nene, Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter up front, while France could showcase Joakim Noah, Boris Diaw and Kevin Seraphin, among others — a U.S. lineup anchored by Tyson Chandler at the five with LeBron James, Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony seeing the lion's share of the minutes at the power-forward spot should be capable of matching up physically with most international contenders, and flat-out overpowering said contenders on the offensive end.
The issue, again, is how such lineups will fare if the U.S. meets Spain, the silver medalists from Beijing in 2008, who will come at the American team with All-Star brothers Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol, plus shot-blocker and physical specimen Serge Ibaka. Even at full strength, the U.S. figured to have major problems matching up with a healthy Spanish frontline; an American team throwing one legitimate center up against the Gasols and Ibaka could be in a very precarious predicament.
While Chandler is certainly capable of holding his own defensively against each member of the Spanish trio, depending on him to do the job against all of them for nearly 40 minutes in a potential gold-medal rematch has to make Team USA's coaching staff a bit uneasy. And if Chandler goes down — not the wildest thought in the world, given his injury history, the fact that he just logged his heaviest regular-season workload in five years for the New York Knicks and that he's played just under 5,000 minutes over the past two seasons — and there are no other legitimate fives to back him up on the roster, what then? It'd be fascinating to see if my hypothesis that LeBron James can guard basically anybody is right, but I'm willing to be Coach K isn't too interested in testing it out, if he can help it.
That's why Colangelo and Krzyzewski had called in Davis, Blake Griffin and Lamar Odom as part of a July 5 workout to possibly add some more size to the U.S. roster. If Davis is out of the mix, that would likely improve the odds of Griffin and Odom making the squad, especially if Griffin shows himself to be adequately recovered from a sprained left knee and Odom shows that he's once again an actual basketball player.
If neither are, then we're going to see even more small(ish)-ball lineups out of Team USA in London, which will be amazing to watch and by no means makes them anything other than the favorite to repeat atop the medal stand. But it does open the door just a crack wider for international opponents looking for a way past the U.S. — they might just find it in the paint.
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