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Australian NBA star Ben Simmons has says he wants to play for the Boomers at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games … if he is fit and able.
The Boomers will earn the Oceania berth for Paris if New Zealand loses to Greece at the World Cup on Wednesday night as they will be assured of finishing above the Tall Blacks.
Ben Simmons.Credit: AP
Simmons told US website Andscape he wanted to play in Paris but hadn’t officially told Basketball Australia yet.
“Yeah, for sure. Olympics? Yeah, 100 per cent. And that’s what I want to do next year,” Simmons told Andscape.
“I’ll let you break the news. I want to play. That’s the other thing. I get messages from Australian people like, ‘Yo, you should be playing right now. [Houston Rockets centre] Jock Landale is playing right now.’
“To me, I’m going to play when I’m ready. There hasn’t really been a time where I’ve been prepared and ready physically. But next year, my goal is to be on the Olympic team.”
Landale was forced to miss the World Cup after injuring his ankle in a lead-up game against South Sudan.
The 27-year-old Simmons didn’t take up an offer to attend training camp in Cairns for the FIBA World Cup, which is currently happening in Asia, as he and his NBA club Brooklyn Nets felt he wasn’t far enough into his rehabilitation from ongoing back injury.
Boomers coach Brian Goorjian gave him an open invitation to attend, just as he did for the Tokyo Olympic preparation.
Simmons made his debut for the Boomers as a teenager in 2013 and tried out for the 2014 FIBA World Cup team, but was cut and has not played for the national team for a variety of reasons. His most recent withdrawals have been due to his injury woes.
Simmons has repeatedly said one of his career goals was to play for Australia at an Olympics and Goorjian, who has known Simmons and his family since his birth, will open the door to the three-time NBA All-Star should the team qualify for Paris.
But he withdrew from the Rio Olympics campaign to focus on his NBA development and wasn’t available for the Tokyo Olympics due to mental health issues.
The Boomers team has transformed since Simmons’ last appearance with nine of the 12 World Cup players on NBA rosters and multiple players with NBA experience left off the roster while players like Josh Giddey, Josh Green, Xavier Cooks and Landale are emerging as new leaders for the national team.
On the NBA front, Simmons said his previous rehabilitation team did not properly understand his body and he came back to play last season before his body was ready and that was the reason his form was bad.
He said he had a mindset to “kill” (play well) this season and believed he would be back to the form that allowed him to become a three-time NBA All-Star with the Philadelphia 76ers.
“This is the most positive I’ve been, and the best place I’ve been in the last two years, which is exciting,” Simmons said.
Simmons also said he only up to playing two-on-two games at present but expected he would be ready for training camp with the Nets.
Andscape reported that Nets coach Jacques Vaughan has made multiple visits to Simmons and his Miami training base this off-season.
Simmons said he had told Vaughan he felt his best position would still be at point guard and not as a power forward or “small-ball” centre.
“I had people tell me, ‘You need to get to the rim and dunk.’ I’m like, ‘Yo, I can’t even jump off of my knee [last season]. What are you talking about?’.” Simmons said.
“Things like that frustrate you when you can’t shut somebody up.
“So now, I have the opportunity to bust my a– all summer and come out a different player. That’s all I can do.”
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