Ben Simmons has pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics, the under siege Australian basketball star to instead spend his NBA off-season working on his skills.
In a move many saw coming after the 24-year-old’s inconsistent performances during Philadelphia’s early NBA playoffs exit, Simmons indicated that while he remained committed to representing the Boomers now was not the time.
“It is a pretty rough time for him right now and I know it is something that he wanted to do, but the timing just hasn’t worked,” Boomers coach Brian Goorjian said.
“The best thing for everybody right now is for him to go on and develop that skill package and improve in a couple of areas for his next season in the NBA, but the Boomers are always here for him.
“We wanted him to know that in his time of need, the culture and the guys here are behind him and support him.”
Simmons received much of blame for the 76ers’ loss to Atlanta in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Australian’s struggles at the free-throw line impacting his confidence to the point where he began passing up wide-open shots.
He was just 15 of 45 (33.3%) from the free-throw line in the seven-game series and he attempted just 14 shots from the field over the final three games – none of them in the final quarters with the result on the line.
There has been much speculation the former No 1 draft pick will be traded this off-season, with 76ers coach Doc Rivers admitting after the game-seven loss to the Hawks that he was not sure if his team could win a championship with Simmons running the team – although he has since said he is “bullish in Ben still” and has a plan to improve his shooting.
Boomers guard Patty Mills – an NBA veteran with San Antonio – said he understands Simmons’ situation. “The number one fact and characteristic of our group is how we support each other through the good, bad and ugly, whatever it may be, and Ben isn’t an exception to that,” Mills said.
“No matter what he does, myself and the team will continue to support him because this is a safe place – everyone needs to know and understand that now more than ever, we need to support Ben on his journey.”
Simmons is a three-time NBA All-Star, a stellar defender who finished second in the defensive player of the year voting behind Utah big man Rudy Gobert, and a noted playmaker. But all of his key numbers dropped in his fourth NBA season, averaging 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists. In 12 post-season games he averaged just 11.9 points.