Ben Simmons expressed optimism Friday that he will make a long-awaited major international debut with Australia at the Tokyo Olympics next summer.
Simmons, a two-time NBA All-Star, was asked if he still planned to play at the Games if his Philadelphia 76ers make a good playoff run. A potential NBA Finals Game 7 will be the night before the Opening Ceremony, with men’s basketball games starting another two days later.
“Yeah, ultimately, I want to play in the Olympics,” Simmons said. “I want to experience that. I want to win a medal, so, hopefully, it all works out with timing and everything and I’m healthy, so, yeah.”
Simmons, 24 and the 2016 No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick, previously hoped to play at the Rio Olympics and the last two FIBA World Cups in 2014 and 2019. But he didn’t make the team in 2014 and withdrew from consideration in 2016 and 2019 to prepare for NBA seasons.
The Australian national team recently had two major shakeups.
Head coach Brett Brown quit in October, two months after he was fired as 76ers head coach following a first-round NBA playoff exit.
Then on Monday, national team stalwart Andrew Bogut announced his retirement rather than hang on for one more year and a fourth Olympics.
Australia, the first team to qualify for the Olympics in September 2019, is the most accomplished basketball nation yet to earn an Olympic men’s medal. It finished fourth in 1988, 1996, 2000 and 2016, going winless in eight games with a medal at stake.
When Bogut played his first Olympics in 2004, Australia had zero NBA players on its roster. In Rio, it had six NBA players.
Its medal hopes rest on Simmons most of all players, though the national team can also call on NBA and Olympic veterans Patty Mills, Aron Baynes and Joe Ingles.
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