May 11, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) celebrates at the end of game four of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Thunder 101-99 to tie the series 2-2.Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Griffin to Skip FIBA World Cup

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Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin will not suit up for USA Basketball in this summer’s FIBA World Cup in Spain, the team announced Thursday.

From the official press release:

Los Angeles Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin on Thursday announced that he will not participate on the USA Basketball Men’s National Team this summer. Griffin was one of 19 players selected to the USA roster from which the 2014 USA World Cup Team will be selected.

“I appreciate the invitation to play for Team USA this summer,” Griffin said. “It is a special opportunity anytime you have a chance to represent your country, and I was honored to be included. However, right now I want to focus and dedicate 100 percent of my energy on improving and preparing for the upcoming season with the Clippers.”

Griffin, a virtual lock to make the final 12-man roster, is the first of those final 19 selected players to bow out. Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge both removed their names from the pool prior to the roster announcement.

The news was as big a shock to USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo as anyone, per USA Today’s Sam Amick:

“I’m disappointed he’s not going to be with us,” Colangelo told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s unfortunate (because) it’s been two competitions in a row (that Griffin has missed), but it sounds like a broken record because it happened recently with someone else.”

“We didn’t have any indication that there was even a possibility of a change in plans (from Griffin),” said Colangelo, who was told of Griffin’s decision in the early afternoon on Thursday.

The four-time All Star cited the need to ‘improve and prepare for the upcoming season.’ Having finished third in the 2014 NBA MVP voting, Griffin will have to find room to improve on the margins of his game. He is more likely using the offseason to, well, rest.

As Colangelo stated, Griffin had to pull out of the 2012 Olympics in London after being diagnosed with a medial meniscus tear in his left knee. He was sidelined two months recovering from arthroscopic surgery. With the Clippers inching increasingly closer to the NBA’s elite, Griffin is doing everything in his power to avoid threatening the team’s championship aspirations. Last year he averaged 24.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and nearly four assists per game.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported earlier in the day that John Wall was extended an invitation to join the roster, keeping it at 19. The team is set to meet for training camp in Las Vegas, where Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski will finalize the 12-man roster. The inaugural FIBA World Cup of Basketball begins in Spain on August 30.

With all of the drama surrounding Donald Sterling and the fate of the Clippers franchise, Spain might have been just the place for Griffin to keep his mind clear and focused on basketball. Alas, the Americans will have to manage with some combination of Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummon, Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried in the front court.

Le sigh.

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Tags: Blake Griffin FIBA World Cup John Wall Mike Krzyzewski USA Basketball

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