Ben Simmons is reportedly set to pull out of Australia’s Tokyo Olympics campaign in a devastating blow to the Boomers’ medal hopes.
The Aussie has reportedly made the call just hours after his Philadelphia team was knocked out of the NBA playoffs in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semi-final series against Atlanta.
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His decision comes after Simmons had shown an interest in competing at the 2021 Olympics, having previously skipped the 2016 Olympics in Brazil and the 2019 Basketball World Cup.
The news was first reported by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, who posted on Twitter: “Ben Simmons is 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.”
There had been commentary following the Sixers’ loss that Simmons could use the Olympic campaign to rebuild his confidence following his meltdown in the series decider against the Hawks.
Sixers coach Doc Rivers said after the game the team had a plan to help Simmons further develop, with a particular focus on his free-throw shooting.
“There’s work. And Ben will be willing to do it,” he said. “Sometimes you have to go through stuff to see it.”
Heading into the off-season and free agency period with an uncertain future, Simmons appears to have made the decision to prioritise himself.
The 24-year-old was met with immediate trade speculation surrounding his future after star teammate Joel Embiid and Rivers appeared to throw him under the bus in the aftermath of the team’s playoffs elimination.
Embiid suggested Simmons’ failure to take an open dunk in the fourth quarter was the moment the Sixers lost the game.
Rivers said he didn’t know the answer when asked about Simmons’ capabilities of leading a team to an NBA championship while playing the point guard role.
Simmons is in the middle of an extraordinary $243 million contract, which includes a pay rise clause activated by his selection in the All-NBA Third Team last year. He is signed until the end of the 2024-25 NBA season.
However, there are still NBA teams that will reportedly be lining up to recruit him, should Simmons and the Sixers agree to part ways.
Respected voices in the NBA, including veteran New York Times reporter Marc Stein, have called for Simmons to be traded.
“The Sixers will obviously explore the Ben Simmons trade market in the off-season … as seen in January when Simmons was the centrepiece of Philadelphia’s James Harden pursuit,” Stein said.
San Antonio, Portland, Washington, Houston and Toronto are speculated to be the teams most likely to entertain the idea of trading for Simmons.
Simmons will now have time to contemplate his future as he watches the 2021 Olympics on the television.