76ers' Ben Simmons Opts to Not Play for Australia at 2021 Tokyo Olympics

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJune 28, 2021

FILE - Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) dribbles the ball during the second half of Game 3 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Washington Wizards, in Washington, in this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo. Ben Simmons can't shoot and lost his confidence. He blamed a mental block on the worst free-throw shooting percentage in NBA playoff history. The 76ers head into the offseason faced with a big question - do they try and salvage Simmons or deal the former No. 1 pick.(AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)
AP Photo/Nick Wass, File

Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons won't represent Australia in the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

Basketball Australia said Monday that Simmons "indicated to Coach [Brian] Goorjian that he requires this upcoming period of time to focus on individual skill development and wishes the team well for the Olympics in Tokyo."

Goorjian described this summer as "a pretty rough time" for Simmons in his statement about the decision.

"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," Goorjian said. "The best thing for everybody right now is for him to go on and develop that skill package and improve in a couple of areas for his next season in the NBA, but the Boomers are always here for him. We wanted him to know that in his time of need, the culture and the guys here are behind him and support him."

Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported June 21 the three-time All-Star was weighing his involvement in the Olympics and planned to "[work] on skill development" this offseason.

Simmons has received plenty of criticism in the wake of the Sixers' conference semifinals exit at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks. He averaged 9.9 points, 8.6 assists and 6.3 rebounds over the seven-game series, and his lack of offense late in games was glaring.

Tom Haberstroh @tomhaberstroh

Ben Simmons 4th quarter this series:<br>Game 1: 2-2 FG<br>Game 2: 0-0 FG<br>Game 3: 1-1 FG<br>Game 4: 0-0 FG<br>Game 5: 0-0 FG<br>Game 6: 0-0 FG<br>Game 7: 0-0 FG

The 24-year-old acknowledged his performance was lacking in the immediate aftermath of his team's Game 7 defeat.

"Offensively, I wasn't there this series," he told reporters. "There's a lot of things I need to work on."

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported June 24 that Sixers representatives had met with Simmons' agent, Rich Paul, "to begin evaluating the next steps in Simmons' Sixers career." Wojnarowski added that Philadelphia is "committed to keeping Simmons as a central piece of their franchise."

The Australian national team will obviously miss Simmons, who also opted out of the 2016 Summer Olympics. Matisse Thybulle, Josh Green, Dante Exum and Josh Giddey are among the notable names on the Olympic squad. Still, winning a first-ever medal in men's basketball won't be easy.

The Boomers reached the semifinals in 2016 and lost to Spain in the bronze-medal game.