Ben Simmons is “doubtful” to play for Australia at the World Cup.
In a major blow to the Boomers’ hopes of claiming a medal in China in September and fans planning to watch him play exhibition games in Melbourne and Perth, Simmons’s US agent Rich Paul told ESPN the All-Star guard is more likely to skip national team duties this year.
His priority will be preparing for the Philadelphia 76ers’ coming NBA season.
The Boomers are yet to win a medal at a World Cup or Olympics but with Simmons spearheading a squad laden with NBA players, including Patty Mills, Andrew Bogut, Joe Ingles, Matthew Dellavedova, Aron Baynes and Jonah Bolden, the drought appeared set to be broken.
Paul’s sober prediction comes after he recently negotiated a historic five-year $US170 million ($A242.2 million) contract extension for Simmons with the 76ers.
The deal will be the richest signed by an Australian athlete.
During the 2018-19 NBA season, Simmons had been cagey when repeatedly asked by reporters if he would play for Australia at the World Cup.
His pending new contract was reportedly Simmons’s reason for not committing.
— Ben Simmons (@BenSimmons25) May 15, 2019
In May – just days after Philadelphia’s season ended with a play-off series loss to the Toronto Raptors and before his new contract was announced – Simmons surprised when he revealed on social media he would play for the Boomers.
“I am going to be a Boomer for the upcoming events, so stay tuned,” Simmons said.
The 22-year-old was expected to play in two exhibition games with the Boomers against the United States in front of more than a combined 100,000 fans at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne in August.
Simmons was also set to suit up for the Boomers in Perth against a strong Canada squad before jetting out to China.
The potential U-turn comes as pressure builds on Simmons to develop an outside shot. He has been working out in Los Angeles in recent weeks.
2019-2020 is the season where Ben Simmons takes the leap towards superstardom pic.twitter.com/WW6c0d3AJ3
— james tatum (@phillyjimyt) July 4, 2019
His reluctance to shoot from range is considered the glaring weakness in his game and an issue exploited by rival teams in the 76ers’ disappointing second-round exits the past two NBA post seasons.
“Simmons is more likely now to spend his full off-season preparing only for the Sixers season – free of national team responsibilities,” the ESPN report, citing Paul, said.