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‘It is a pretty rough time for him right now’: Ben Simmons to skip the Olympics

“It is a pretty rough time for him right now,” Australia head coach Brian Goorjian says.

Sixers guard Ben Simmons dribbles the basketball against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference playoff semifinals.
Sixers guard Ben Simmons dribbles the basketball against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference playoff semifinals.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Sixers star Ben Simmons won’t be suiting up for Team Australia.

Simmons, who remains the center of attention among Sixers fans due to his poor performance during the playoffs, informed the Boomers he’s skipping the Olympics in Tokyo to “focus on individual skill development.”

“It is a pretty rough time for him right now,” Australia’s head coach Brian Goorjian said in a statement, adding that going to the Olympics “is something that he wanted to do, but the timing just hasn’t worked.

“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,” Goorjian said.

The move isn’t exactly a surprise — the Melbourne native also turned down playing for Australia in the 2016 Olympics after he was drafted by the Sixers with the No. 1 overall pick. Simmons also declined to play for the national team during the 2019 FIBA World Cup, citing “professional obligations.”

While Simmons won’t don the green and yellow in Tokyo, Sixers teammate Matisse Thybulle — an Arizona native who spent much of his childhood in Sydney — is expected to join the team’s pre-Olympic camp Wednesday. The Boomers will announce their final roster in early July and are scheduled to play three exhibition games — against the United States, Nigeria, and Argentina — in Las Vegas prior to the Olympics.

Boomer veteran Patty Mills, who also plays in the NBA for the San Antonio Spurs, offered a thoughtful response to Simmons’ decision, expressing both disappointment and support for his fellow Australian.

“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.”

Andrew Bogut, a Boomer great who played on two Olympic teams, called Simmons “the best Australian-born NBA player in the world,” but said he had “an inkling” last week the Sixers star would pull himself off Team Australia yet again.

“There’s some mental demons that he needs to figure out in the offseason which you can’t fault too much, but 2019 was an opportunity, 2016 was an opportunity, so there’s only going to be so many Olympics left that he can get to,” Bogut, who played 14 seasons in the NBA, told SEN, an Australian publication.

Simmons’ decision to skip the Olympics comes as he is surrounded by intense criticism over his poor shooting during the NBA playoffs, where the Sixers once again failed to move on to the Eastern Conference finals.

During the seven-game conference semifinal loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Simmons shot just 33% the foul line and took only three shots in the fourth quarters of the entire series.

“I personally feel he has played his last game in Philadelphia,” Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Reggie Miller told the Inquirer. “And the reason why I say that is Philly fans have long memories and if you bring him back and he goes through a stretch of two, three, four [bad] games, Philly fans are going to let you know. That is just how they are there. … Mentally … sometimes that is the hardest thing to prepare an athlete for as opposed to his physical skills.”