Ben Simmons will not play in the Tokyo Olympics for Australia’s men’s basketball team, the Philadelphia 76ers All-Star said Tuesday.
Simmons told Australia head coach Brian Goorjian that he is focusing on “individual skill development,” according to a Basketball Australia press release.
“I have spoken with Ben, and whilst we wanted him to be a part of our team, we understand and support his decision and he has made it clear that this is something that he wants to be a part of in the future,” Goorjian said, according to the release. “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.”
Simmons’ 76ers had the best record in the Eastern Conference this season but were upset in the conference semifinals by the fifth seed Atlanta Hawks in seven games.
Before the season, Simmons expressed optimism that he would make a long-awaited major international debut with Australia at the Tokyo Games.
“Ultimately, I want to play in the Olympics,” Simmons said in December. “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.
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.
Simmons is by far its biggest active NBA star.
Andrew Bogut, the 2005 NBA No. 1 overall draft pick and longtime face of Australian men’s basketball, retired in November at age 36.
The national team can still call on NBA and Olympic veterans Patty Mills, Aron Baynes and Joe Ingles.
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