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In order to focus on his skills, Ben Simmons won’t participate in the Olympics for team Australia

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2021 NBA Playoffs - Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Given the way the season ended, it’s going to be an especially long off-season for Ben Simmons. The Sixers as a team squandered leads of 18 and 26 points in games 4 and 5 in their matchup against the Hawks. They then lost a decisive game seven at home. In the series, Simmons shot just 32.7 percent from the free-throw line, including a 4-14 performance in game 5. He finished with an average of 9.9 points, 8.6 assists, and 6.3 rebounds. After getting switched onto Hawks’ superstar Trae Young halfway through game one, Simmons helped limit Young to a subpar shooting effort the rest of the series. But they needed more than his stellar defense and passing; especially with so many other Sixers struggling to put the ball in the hoop, get stops, or avoid turnovers.

He has been roasted on social media for failing to step up as a scorer, failing to make his free throws, and perhaps most of all, for failing to posterize Trae Young on one play in particular, when he passed to Matisse Thybulle:

It was difficult to watch Simmons struggle the way he did. It appeared that he lost his confidence on the offensive end completely, following his game 3 performance when he dropped 18 points, and 7 assists in a big road win. While his struggles from the line got worse and worse over time, they appeared to impact his approach to all offensive sets. He just didn’t want to try to score in the half-court because he would probably get fouled, it seemed. Atlanta knew it and used it to their advantage, helping off of him every chance they got.

Simmons handled the aftermath about as well as one might expect, given the circumstances. He owned having had a bad series, saying “I had a bad series, I expect that [criticism].”

While he may have wanted the opportunity to represent his home country, it’s not the first time he’s decided to dedicate his offseason to skills development. Per The Guardian:

“Simmons was a late withdrawal from the Boomers’ 2019 World Cup campaign and has not played for Australia since being overlooked as an emerging 18-year-old for their 2014 World Cup campaign.”

Last week, Simmons’ agent Klutch CEO Rich Paul, met with the Sixers’ brass to discuss his client’s future, and if it might make sense to explore a trade. Per Woj, the Sixers at this time remain committed to Simmons:

This was a sentiment Team President Daryl Morey mostly backed up in his postseason presser. He didn’t offer any guarantees that any one player would be on the team next year, citing that it was his job [as President] to look at all ways to improve the club, whether that be trade, free agency, or draft. It wasn’t the most resounding endorsement. But it was still an endorsement. I’d say he threaded the needle a bit, verbally committing to this core while letting people know he understands the team was not good enough to win the title in 2021.

Of course, none of this will stop Simmons’ name from coming up in rumors:

But other than simply inferring that the Sixers might shop the former number one overall pick, no credible reports about trades have popped up yet and it appears betting markets still think there’s a better chance Ben remains a 76er more so than the chances he’s on any other single team by next year’s jump. That being said, odds of +225 only come out to about 31 percent, so the chances he’s moved this summer also feel pretty real if betting markets are to be relied upon:

As for Simmons himself, the Defensive Player of the Year runner-up will likely (or at least should) spend the bulk of his summer working on his shooting form and free throws. If he could at least have shot a respectable 60 plus percent like he did during the last three regular seasons, he would have been a lot more valuable to the club during the playoffs. It won’t be enough to simply work hard. He’ll also have to work smart because no matter how much repetition a player with poor mechanics puts in practice, he or she probably will not improve significantly without correcting the underlying issues. (The same might apply to Matisse Thybulle this summer, who could really change the trajectory of his career with some enhanced shooting mechanics).

He still helped hold Trae Young to 5-23 shooting in the biggest game of the year and dished out 13 dimes and was far from the only one deserving of blame during the series. But he certainly has garnered the lion's share of wrath and fans want him to know they’re upset:

He was likely dealing with some very troubling rumors involving his family this season, and while neither he nor the team addressed that in direct language, they have alluded to some off-the-court stuff. Danny Green, whose presence was sorely missed in the series, following his calf injury, discussed his teammates struggle’s. Per Ky Carlin, SixersWire:

“He wants to win,” Green finished. “It’s going to hurt him for summer just as it hurts us. I know the city of Philly is going to be on him, I know the media is going to be on him, but as a young kid, young human being, young player in this game, he deserves a little latitude, especially for what he’s done and what he’s gone through this year.”

It makes some sense that this is a season and perhaps year of his life he’d love to put very far behind him.

Whether you’d like to see Ben back in the red, white, and blue or not, this is the type of report a Sixers fan would like to hear; that he is dedicated solely to improving his skills this summer, rather than participating in the Olympics. Not only is there an injury risk to playing competitive hoops, (imagine if the team did want to trade him but he got hurt during Olympic play), it’s often not advisable to play in games when one is looking to alter their shooting form. You remember this conversation because of Markelle Fultz and how he avoided all scrimmages for a full summer of shooting work...that well, didn’t work.

Hopefully, Ben can clear his head, tune out the noise, and the criticism and the rumors, because certainly, those won’t make improving his game any easier.