MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Three-times NBA All-Star Ben Simmons is getting his health back and is a “strong chance” to represent Australia at the World Cup, coach Brian Goorjian said.
The Brooklyn Nets forward has battled back and knee problems since joining the NBA side in 2021/22, and cut his season short to recuperate.
Simmons has repeatedly pulled out of playing major tournaments for Australia, including the Boomers’ bronze medal-winning Olympics in Tokyo.
However, Goorjian said Simmons now wanted to be in the national setup for the August-September World Cup in Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.
“It just didn’t work (in the past), but now he is in a situation where he is getting his health back to be ready to play,” Goorjian told Australian radio SEN.
“As we sit now, I think there is a really strong chance (for the World Cup).”
The NBA’s top draft pick in 2016, Melbourne-born Simmons impressed in his first years with the Philadelphia 76ers but his currency dropped during a difficult 2020/21 playoffs campaign when he struggled from the free-throw line.
Under fire for his drop-off in form, Simmons’s decision to pull out of Tokyo weeks before the Games further disappointed Australian fans.
Goorjian, however, has no hard feelings over the 26-year-old’s past reluctance to play for the country and said he wanted him in his team.
“Our door is always open to him and during my time with the Boomers he has always been straightforward with me,” he said.
“But that was a very tough situation (in Philadelphia) and he was in the process of change.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Robert Birsel)