Philadelphia 76ers All-Star forward Ben Simmons doesn’t have any Olympic experience, and he’s not going to get any this summer. After initially showing interesting in playing for Australia in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, Simmons has decided not to, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. Simmons will instead spend his offseason working on skill development following a subpar performance in the NBA playoffs.
Simmons shot a historically poor percentage from the foul line during the postseason, and his unwillingness to shoot the ball made him largely a nonfactor on the offensive end for Philadelphia. On Monday, Sixers coach Doc Rivers said that the team has a plan in place to help Simmons grow his game over the offseason.
“I think some of the stuff is obvious,” Rivers said of Simmons’ improvement. “We’re not hiding that Ben has to become a better free throw shooter, and a more confident free throw shooter. If that happens, I really believe a lot of the other parts of his game will follow. I said that before the season started. The first thing I said was, ‘We got to get him to the line 10 times a night.’ … So, we’ve got to put in work so he can get there. But if we can get him there, man, his game goes to a different level.”
Despite Simmons’ struggles, Rivers made it clear that he is still sanguine about Simmons moving forward.
“I’m very bullish on Ben still,” Rivers said. “But there’s work. There is. And Ben will be willing to do it, and that’s the key. Sometimes you have to go through stuff to see it, and to be honest with it.”
Simmons’ decision to opt out of Olympic play may upset Australian fans, but it will likely please Philadelphia fans who want to see more from the former first overall pick. The decision reportedly came as a shock to Australia’s coach Brian Goorjian, who was hoping that he would have Simmons’s vast skill set at his disposal.
This offseason is a critical one for Simmons, who desperately needs to advance his game on the offensive end in order to reach his ceiling — and in order to restore his reputation, which undoubtedly took a hit this postseason. Focusing his time on expanding his skill set, as opposed to playing live ball, is probably a wise decision.