Basketball Australia is in the dark on whether Ben Simmons will play at the Tokyo Olympics after a report emerged in the US that he was considering brushing the Games in favour of personal training.
Simmons is under immense pressure after a poor NBA playoff series in which his Philadelphia 76ers were eliminated by the Atlanta Hawks.
Ben Simmons is reportedly in doubt for the Olympics.Credit:AP
ESPN senior reporter Brian Windhorst said Simmons was “doubtful to play for Australia in Tokyo Olympics, sources said. Will spend offseason working on skill development. Aussies scheduled to begin training this week in L.A.”
Basketball Australia had said on Monday it expected Simmons to join teammates and coach Brian Goorjian at a mini-training camp in Los Angeles this week or at a pre-Olympic tournament in Las Vegas next month.
On Tuesday the organisation said it had not been informed by Simmons nor his manager Rich Paul at Klutch Sports that he had pulled out.
Sources close to Goorjian said he had not been told anything to the contrary either but was aware of media reports. Goorjian is due to leave for LA on Wednesday.
Andrew Gaze, the Australian basketball great and five-time Olympian, urged Simmons to join the Tokyo-bound squad.
“I would say [to him, you] should do whatever it takes in order for you to join the Australian team,” Gaze said on SEN radio.
“Not just for what it means for Australian basketball, but what it means for you. For me, I came through and the greatest education I had was being involved in the Australian team.
“It is a culture like no other. And when you’re in a situation where you’re looking for support, you’re looking for teammates to wrap their arms around you, you’re looking for a nation to get behind you and show support, there is no greater environment than the Australian Olympic basketball teams.
“That’s a culture that’s been handed down from generation to generation to generation and, regardless of whatever personal situation they have, Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Aron Baynes, all the other players involved in the Australian team, they will wrap their arms around Ben Simmons like no other because that is the culture of the Boomers.”
Simmons was to have been a central plank to Australia’s quest for a breakthrough men’s Olympic medal but his underwhelming contribution against the Hawks prompted all manner of stinging criticism, and may ultimately lead to his Boomers’ omission.
Amidst the fallout of defeat, 76ers coach Doc Rivers said he did not know whether the former No.1 pick could be a point guard on championship side, teammate Joel Embiid said Simmons’ decision to not complete an open dunk late in game seven was the “turning point” of the game, while the media pile-on has been ruthless on a man set to make $33 million next season.
While Simmons was a unanimous selection on the NBA’s all defensive team this season and is a three-time All Star, his unwillingness to shoot the ball has been an issue for many years, and was put further under the spotlight against the Hawks when he took only three combined shots in seven final quarters, including none in the fourth quarters of the final four games. He averaged only 9.9 points per game against the Hawks.
He has been criticised for not developing his game, whether that be having confidence to shoot three-pointers or from mid-range. He relies on dunks, fast breaks, tip in and jump hooks to score.
Simmons is also likely to be the subject of more trade speculation, for the 76ers had discussed trading him for former league Most Valuable Players James Harden through the season but the Brooklyn Nets ultimately satisfied the Houston Rockets in that deal.
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