The USA’s bid to retain their Olympic basketball title has suffered a knock after centre Dwight Howard was ruled out of London 2012.

The Orlando Magic star is to undergo back surgery, ruling him out of the forthcoming NBA play-offs and this summer’s Games.

Howard, a six-time All Star, was expected to be one of the fulcrums of the first choice American line-up after shining during their gold medal run in Beijing four years ago.

And with fellow centre LaMarcus Aldridge also a doubt through injury, and Lamar Odom – the starter at the 2010 world championships – dealing with personal problems, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo may now look at calling in reinforcements.

“I understand exactly who’s involved,” Colangelo said. “The only thing I don’t know is the extent of Dwight Howard’s situation, and I really want to find out more about that. But we may have to consider, you know, invitations to a couple other players. That’s a possibility. We’ll talk about it.”

With six months of rehab from the operation, Howard’s exit could spell the effective end of his time in Orlando – or seal the fate of coach Stan van Gundy after the season.

It has been claimed that the former number one Draft pick – who agreed to opt into the final year of his contract last month – wants van Gundy removed from his post. Howard disputes the issue.

Fellow NBA centre Andrew Bogut has also been ruled out of London through injury to damage Australia’s ambitions.

The Golden State Warriors big man, who has missed most f the season, admitted he was devastated by the news.

On Twitter, he posted: “Shattered thinking about missing the 2012 Olympics. They truly are a life changing experience and something that you will always remember.”

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