Disappointing, but not surprising.
That’s how Andrew Bogut, one of Australia’s great basketball players who regularly pulled on the Boomers singlet, described speculation Ben Simmons will make himself unavailable for the Tokyo Olympics.
Simmons is one of the biggest names in the world, but off the back of his NBA playoffs disappointment, where he played like someone wanting to curl back into a turtle’s shell, he is reportedly set to withdraw.
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Bogut is not surprised and believes the Philadelphia 76ers was always likely to pull the pin.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” Bogut told Fox Sports News.
“He’s an integral part in what the Boomers are trying to get to and would be, and he’s the best Australian-born NBA player in the world.
“Am I surprised? No, definitely not. I had an inkling.
“I think there were perfect paths to pull out whether it was having a rough shooting series, or going all the way to a championship series and then there would have been rest.
“It’s his decision.
“I’m not criticising him for pulling out to want to better his game, but it’s more of the tease and allure of is he in or is he not.”
Simmons’ touted decision to withdraw comes as no great shock.
The Australian point-guard’s availability has always been left up in the air, leaving open the possibility he would not feature for the Boomers.
Asked whether there was a cultural issue or if something could be done, Bogut, who won the NBA title with Golden State Warriors, said the only hope was if his Australian teammates joined LeBron James’ agency Clutch Sports to get his ear.
“Honestly, I think that would be the first step is sign with LeBron’s agency,” he said.
But Bogut added Simmons should not need to be “wooed” to play for his country.
“To be too blunt, if you need to be recruited to play for your national team and have a presentation about why you should play, you shouldn’t play,” he said.
“If you love your off-season, you’re going to miss time that you could be spending with family, on a beach, having a few beers that we all want to do at times and if you want to do that, by all means, but it’s a big commitment to play for your national team and I don’t think it’s something you need to be wooed to do.”
It’s a massive blow for Australia’s chances of bringing home a gold medal, with the Boomers a genuine possibility of competing for a podium finish were Simmons on the court.
Bogut said there remained enough depth in the team to be competitive, but Simmons’ absence was a blow.
He added: “Ben’s a supreme athlete, one of the best at open floor basketballers, physical, and he would have made a difference, and don’t forget that he’s a top five, top 10 defender in the NBA, so that’s a big hole to fill, but it’s also a hole we’ve never had to fill because he’s never played.
“We don’t really know what he can bring because he’s never brought it for the national team.”
Simmons, who finished with the worst free throw percentage (min. 70 attempts) in post-season history (34.2 per cent), is likely to be traded in the off-season.
His season haunted by his frightened state in front of goal.
It’s been widely reported one of Simmons or Joel Embiid will not remain at the Sixers.
Bogut said it was disappointing to see the leaks come out of the team and said Embiid had added to the “pile on” Simmons had copped over the past fortnight.
“I’ve been through similar journeys at times after the elbow and arm injuries. I got hacked to be put on the free-throw line and there were some series’ where I shot well and others where I shot poorly and it is a lonely place and you want to make sure your teammates have your back,” Bogut said.
“That’s professional sports, stars are always going to look to blame someone else and I think Joel’s found that he’s scapegoating Ben and everyone’s piling on Ben.
“And yeah, he had some instances there where he wasn’t aggressive and it got in his head, but Joel also had eight turnovers in that game. He turned the ball over a lot in that series. He had an MVP type year, but I don’t like those leaks from anyone and this just shows me that the Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons experiment is over. I don’t think it’s going to go forward anymore. Those comments just show me that there’s a disconnect now.”