NBA star Ben Simmons has confirmed that he will play for the Boomers at “upcoming events” in a video statement.
Australia’s first NBA All-Star player had delayed committing to the Boomers, with fellow NBA player Patty Mills concerned that Simmons could opt to sit out the tournament due to concerns over the ability of Basketball Australia to “cater to players’ needs”.
But Simmons dispelled those thoughts with his statement, giving Australia a powerhouse side to take on the world’s best.
“I would like to announce that I am going to be a Boomer for the upcoming events, so stay tuned,” Melbourne-born Simmons said in a video on Twitter.
Plenty of Australia’s NBA contingent – including Mills, Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova, Aron Baynes and Joe Ingles – have already committed to the side.
Mills said in February that the Australians have the potential to challenge for the world title.
“We’re excited to put together Australia’s best-ever team,” Mills said.
“We want to be the best team in the world and are absolutely licking our chops at that opportunity.”
The Boomers have never won a medal at the World Cup before and finished in a heartbreaking fourth spot at the last Olympics in Rio, which Simmons chose not appear in, instead focusing on his rookie season in the NBA.
But with the significant number of NBA players now swelling their ranks, the Boomers have a team that could challenge at the tournament, which will take place in China from August 31 this year.
The Boomers are set to play two warm-up matches against the all-powerful USA in Melbourne on August 22 and 24.
Simmons criticised in Philadelphia
Philadelphia 76ers star, who exited the playoffs in dramatic fashion on Monday (AEDT) against the Toronto Raptors, also addressed the disappointing end to Philadelphia’s NBA season with the 76ers,
“Tough way to finish the season,” Simmons said.
“I really appreciate the support through the year – the home crowd was amazing, electric all season long.”
During the postseason, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year was heavily criticised by fans for not making enough of an impact for the 76ers, and was even booed after the opening game of their run in the playoffs, against the Brooklyn Nets.
Also criticised in the media, there was some speculation that Simmons would be traded in the off-season as opposed to being offered a contract extension in Philadelphia that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
But Simmons received a vote of confidence from star teammate Joel Embiid, having already been supported by coach Brett Brown, who has been told his job is safe despite the playoff exit.
“We have a lot to work on – me [and Simmons],” Embiid said.
“I’m excited about all the work I’m going to put in this summer and he should be too.
“He has a lot of potential. He can do so much more and be right there. I’m going to support him through everything. That’s my brother.”
For his part, Simmons said he was looking forward to putting the work in during the off-season, which fans will hope includes adding a jump shot.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back in the lab and putting the work in,” he said.
After two complete seasons, Simmons is yet to hit a three-point shot, which is part of what makes his fit with superstar centre Embiid and the rest of the 76ers awkward.