Basketball-Australian Simmons to skip Tokyo Olympics

June 28 (Reuters) - Australia’s Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons has decided not to play for the country at this year’s Tokyo Olympics, according to the national team’s head coach Brian Goorjian.

Simmons, who has been the subject of NBA trade talks after struggling in the 2021 playoffs, told Goorjian he needed time to focus on individual skill development, according to a report on the Basketball Australia here website on Tuesday.

“I have spoken with Ben and whilst we wanted him to be a part of our team, we understand and support his decision and he has made it clear that this is something that he wants to be a part of in the future,” said Goorjian.

“It is a pretty rough time for him right now and I know it is something that he wanted to do, but the timing just hasn’t worked.”

Earlier this year, Simmons, who sat out the 2016 Rio Olympics to prepare for his rookie NBA season, said he was looking forward to pulling on the green and gold in Tokyo.

The 24-year-old Melbourne-born Simmons helped the 76ers secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference but had a poor percentage from the foul line during the post-season and faced criticism over an unwillingness to shoot on a regular basis.

After the 76ers lost in the decisive seventh game of the second round, former number one overall draft pick Simmons shouldered that blame and said: “Offensively, I wasn’t there. I didn’t do enough for my team mates.”

Australia, who lost the bronze medal game in 2016, will begin Group B play against Nigeria in Tokyo on July 25. (Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)