It’s not easy being Ben Simmons, although it does appear to have its advantages, particularly the five-year, $170 million contract extension that was announced on Tuesday.
Just a couple of hours after that announcement, Simmons broke the news to the Australian national team that he won’t be joining the Boomers at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in September. He’ll be in the country in August for the youth camps that bear his name, and will play two exhibitions with the national team, but then the mates are on their own. Good luck with the Olympics qualification and all that.
There was some predictable grumbling from Down Under – apologies if that sounds like a gastrointestinal observation – because Simmons is very popular there, perhaps because they don’t have to be around him very often. He would also make the team significantly more competitive, which he promised to do when he pledged his participation in May.
Australians love their teams and they love basketball, but the love has not been requited on the international stage. Aussies have played in 14 Olympic Games without earning a medal, which is a record; and are medal-less in 11 World Cups, which isn’t a record, but probably should be.
The addition of Simmons, who hasn’t played a major role with the senior nationals, was going to be a breakthough for the Boomers, but now that’s busted. The fans will have to pin their hopes on Andrew Bogut again, the big man who was a 76er for about three days after changing hands in the Nerlens Noel trade with Dallas. Bogut is only 34, but that’s about 57 in Bogut years.
The rest of the team includes NBA players Patty Mills, Aron Baynes, Joe Ingles, Thon Maker, Matthew Dellavedova, and 76ers’ young big man Jonah Bolden. But they will have to shoulder on without Simmons, who said September is reserved for his real job.
“I wanted to let everyone know that after consulting with my representation, I’ve made the difficult decision to forego playing in the World Cup in China,” he said in a statement. “Ultimately, we decided it was best that I use the time in September to return to Philadelphia and acquaint myself with my new teammates and prepare for the upcoming NBA season.”
It’s not easy being Ben and making choices like that, but who can argue with buckling down and getting to work with the Sixers? Interesting that he said the consultation was with his representation and not the team, and, with the announcement coming so quickly after the extension, it could be the Sixers made his presence prior to training camp a condition of finishing off the deal.
NBA teams don’t get to dictate anything to their stars, however, so there could also be another explanation.
Presumably, Simmons has been working hard this summer with his brother to construct a jump shot that is reliable enough to be employed in actual games. In his first two seasons, only 16 percent of Simmons’ attempts were 10 feet from the basket, and the success rate of those wasn’t high.
Simmons said he would do the offseason work, develop the shot, and couldn’t wait to show the results. With the Australian team, he had the chance to give the entire world a sneak peek but chose not to do it. Could it be because there’s still nothing to show?
It’s not easy being as great as Simmons and constantly picked on because of this one little failing in his game. He doesn’t let himself laugh out loud about it, but he does smirk a lot. The questions make him shake his head. After all, he got to the NBA without a jump shot. He was the Rookie of the Year without a jump shot. And now he is a max-money dude without ever making a single defender respect his range on a pick-and-roll.
They even pick on his family, starting with his brother and shooting coach Liam, but his sister Liv also made news this week when she tossed shade at Ben’s ex-girlfriend, Kendall Jenner. Liv made a Twitter hoopla over photos of Jenner on a cozy yacht ride with Kyle Kuzma of the Lakers, implying Jenner was “working her way through a league.” That seems ambitious, even by Kendall’s standards, but all the noise gets back to Simmons and he just has to take it.
Give the guy a break. He’s got a whole country disappointed in him, and he’s got an NBA fan base just waiting for one stinking three-point field goal, and he’s got new teammates to educate regarding his greatness – the classes with Jimmy Butler weren’t a wild success – and he’s got a potential catfight between his sister, who has a Twitter account, and his ex-girlfriend, who could probably buy Twitter. That won’t end well.
Nevertheless, Simmons got his money, as everyone knew he would. He also got a chance this summer to show off a newly engineered game that would be worth every cent, but declined. For whatever reason, he chose to push back the unveiling another month or so.