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PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – JUNE 20: Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers bumps into fans during the fourth quarter during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks at Wells Fargo Center on June 20, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo : Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
A day after being eliminated by the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Ben Simmons has decided not to suit up for Australia in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, according to reports. Though Simmons has not yet released an official statement regarding the matter, ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst said that “Ben Simmons is doubtful to play for Australia and that he will spend off-season working on skill development.”
After early playoff exit, Simmons now a major doubt for Australia
If that is indeed the case, Simmons’ withdrawal is a huge blow to the Boomers’ campaign in Tokyo. With NBA stars such as Patty Mills and Joe Ingles on board, Australia were hoping to win their maiden Olympic medal this coming August. Simmons’ apparent refusal to commit to Australia’s Olympic cause, however, puts a dampener to those expectations.
Boomers coach Brian Goorjian was shocked with the latest development, saying he was totally unaware of Simmons’ plan to pull out of the Olympics. Goorijan included Simmons in Australia’s 19-man squad for warm-up games against the US next month.
It isn’t a complete surprise, however, to watch Simmons prioritize his NBA career and work on his skill development. The former Rookie of the Year has been the subject of ridicule following his sub-par showing in the seven-game series against the Atlanta Hawks. When the Sixers needed him the most, he wilted, scoring a combined 19 points in the final three games of the series.
He averaged just 9.9 points, 8.6 assists and 6.3 rebounds through seven playoff games against Atlanta. Though he shot 60% from the field in that series, he was abysmal from the free throw line, canning just 15 of his 45 attempts from the stripe for a woeful 33 percent clip. Simmons shot just 25-for-73 from the free throw line the entire 2021 postseason for a 34.2 percent clip, the worst percentage in NBA history for players with a minimum of 70 attempts in the playoffs.
Simmons a pariah in Philadelphia
What made Philly fans mad, however, was how Simmons struggled in the final quarter of that series against Atlanta. Given that he’s receiving a max contract from the Sixers, it’s only appropriate for fans to expect huge things from Simmons come playoff time. Simmons did the opposite, however, against the Hawks as he buckled under the bright lights of the playoffs.
Simmons disappeared in the fourth quarter of the Atlanta series, attempting just three shots in the seven games played. He was basically a non-factor down the stretch in Games 5 to 7 as he didn’t attempt a single fourth-quarter shot in the final three games of the series.
With the series hanging in the balance in the dying minutes of Game 7, Simmons had a wonderful opportunity to change the narrative of his Philadelphia career. Down two with just 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, Simmons found himself wide open underneath the basket following a gorgeous spin move on Danilo Gallinari.
With no defender in sight, many were expecting Simmons to dunk the basketball and tie the game for Philadelphia. Fearing that he will get fouled, Simmons inexplicably dumped the ball to Matisse Thybulle who was hacked going to the basket. Instead of a sure two points, the Sixers made just one as Thybulle split his charities. The Sixers didn’t regain the lead from that point onwards with Joel Embiid stating in a post-game interview that that decision by Simmons caused Philadelphia the game and the series.
The most important offseason of Ben Simmons’ career begins now with plenty of questions surrounding the 24-year-old star. Will he skip the Olympics? Is his career with the Sixers already over? We will all soon find out.
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