The Trail Blazers placed F Brian Grant on the injured list yesterday, forcing the team's best rebounder to miss at least the first five games of the season. Grant hasn't fully recovered from offseason surgery on his left knee. . . .

Hawks F LaPhonso Ellis also will start the season on the injured list. Ellis injured his left calf during training camp and aggravated it last week, Hawks spokesman Arthur Triche said. . . .

Meantime, the Cavaliers, in need of a center while Zydrunas Ilgauskas is out with a painful left foot, signed 7-foot Benoit Benjamin. The Lakers cut Benjamin on Thursday.

NEW DEAL FOR KNIGHT: The Cavaliers signed G Brevin Knight to a contract extension. Terms were not disclosed.

Knight has averaged 9.2 points, 8.1 assists and 2.2 steals per game in his career. The third-year player broke a bone in his left hand in April and missed much of last season.

NO BILLUPS: The Nuggets likely will open the season without starting G Chauncey Billups, who sprained his right ankle during a team scrimmage.

Billups is the second Denver starter to sprain an ankle during the preseason. F Antonio McDyess has played sparingly because of a sprained right ankle and migraine headaches. Billups is not expected to play in Denver's opener tonight against Phoenix. McDyess is expected to play.