NBA superstar Ben Simmons says his decision to withdraw from Australia’s World Cup warm-up matches is in the best interest of the Boomers.
Simmons had already withdrawn from the FIBA World Cup squad to prepare for the next NBA season after signing a new five-year, $US170 million ($A241.6m) contract with Philadelphia 76ers but originally still planned to play in the exhibition matches against USA and Canada next month.
However Basketball Australia announced on Sunday that after discussions with coach Andrej Lemanis he would no longer take part in the exhibition games.
Simmons said the decision had nothing to do with his new contract and it was best for the Boomers’ World Cup preparations that he didn’t play.
“It was super difficult – everyone knows I want to represent Australia,” Simmons said at a press conference in Melbourne on Sunday.
“It was a mutual decision between me and the team – coaches and players.
“We feel like it’s in the team’s best interest in the long run that I don’t compete for the fact that the team needs to get the chemistry together and I don’t want to be in the way of that.”
Eyes on Olympics gold
Simmons said the team would have to play a completely different structure if he was on the floor.
Australia need to finish as the highest-placed team from the Oceania region – above New Zealand – at the World Cup to advance straight through to next year’s Olympics.
“My ultimate goal is to win a gold medal in the Olympics so if this means sacrificing this I’m happy to do that if it means getting a medal in the Olympics.”
The highly-touted exhibition matches – namely the USA games at Marvel Stadium on August 22 and 24 – had already lost much of their star power with few American house-hold NBA names taking part.
Simmons said he understood the disappointment of fans.
“For sure (I understand), but it’s much bigger than two games.
“People can be mad at me and I completely understand but my goal is to bring an Olympic medal to Australia so if you guys are mad at me now then that’s fine but hopefully when I’m holding that medal up with my teammates then you guys are smiling.”
A replacement for Simmons in the 18-man squad will be announced on Monday, with the World Cup in China starting late August.