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Fourth-Place Medal

Blake Griffin’s Olympics-ending meniscus tear came as a result of John Wall stepping on his foot (VIDEO)

Fourth-Place Medal

When Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski broke news that Blake Griffin had left Team USA after suffering a knee injury on Thursday, and would be flying to Los Angeles to have an MRI, the hoops-watching world collectively felt like it had just swallowed a whole boot. When the Los Angeles Times' Broderick Turner followed up with the report that Griffin "only" (my word, not his) suffered a meniscus tear and not something more severe, everything seemed to go down a little easier. Blake will have surgery next week and miss the 2012 Olympics, but he'll be ready for training camp with the Clippers in the fall.

If you still want to feel uneasy, though, take a look at the play in which Blake (who struggled through a left knee injury as his Clippers fell in the second round of the playoffs in May) re-injured that left knee:

It could have been worse. Blake took to the floor after Washington Wizards guard (and Team USA Select Team opponent) John Wall stepped on his foot and pulled his leg the wrong way, and we've seen significant ligament tears resulting from plays less awkward than this.

Here's Turner's take, from the Times:

Griffin is expected to be out about eight weeks recovering from the injury and should be fine and ready to play when the season starts, the executives said.

Dr. Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic will perform the surgery.

Team USA's options after this are pretty straightforward. They'll be replacing the offensive-minded Griffin with a defensive terror in New Orleans Hornets rookie center Anthony Davis, two players that can seemingly pull chin-ups on the shot clock but use that athleticism in two completely different ways. As was the case before Blake's injury, Team USA will struggle to score in spots, but even with Blake's continued improvement and dunking ability his ability to dominate against international zones with his burgeoning post and pick and roll play was no sure thing.

[ Related: What would U.S. Olympic basketball team look like without NBA players? ]

Because of this, we were looking forward to Griffin gaining more playing time and more and more reps as a member of Team USA. Griffin is a dogged practice worker, but he lost his entire 2009-10 season due to injury, and the crucial offseason following his rookie year due to the NBA lockout in 2011. And though he's hasn't missed a game in his technical NBA career (excluding that missed season), Griffin has piled up just 159 combined regular and postseason games thus far. With that post game still a work in progress, time spent on Team USA (especially against unorthodox international defenses) would have helped.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that Griffin doesn't have a torn ACL, he'll be ready for camp in the fall, and rest will always do him good. A torn meniscus doesn't come without worry — many that have fallen victim to microfracture surgery started their injury woes and failed full recoveries by tearing their meniscus — but for now the outlook is rosy. Had Griffin torn his ACL he would have been out for most if not all of 2012-13 with Los Angeles, never at full strength even after a return, and his departure would have knocked the Clippers out of the playoffs and possibly 2013 free agent All-Star guard Chris Paul right out of Los Angeles.

[ Photos: Blake Griffin ]

Team USA will have no such worries, even if Davis struggles. There is a very real chance the squad could fail to win gold or even medal, such is the game of basketball, but this versatile crew has the roster and depth to overcome an injury to just about anyone. The rumor around camp is that the ankle sprain that Davis suffered last week was the first of his basketball career, so it's anyone's guess as to how well he'll overcome that (who had nine points in just eight minutes during Team USA's exhibition win over the Dominican Republic on Thursday), but there are worse problems for Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski to have.

And there were worse injuries for Blake Griffin to sustain. Fingers crossed for a sound and patient recovery.

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