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Will Ben Simmons play in FIBA World Cup? Aussie confirms he’s interested

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Could it be that the next time we see Ben Simmons play will August 25 when Australia’s national team — the Boomers — opens its FIBA World Cup pursuit vs. Finland on the Japanese island of Okinawa?

Brian Goorjian, the head coach of the Aussie team, told SEN, Australia’s national sports radio network, Friday that he sees the Melbourne native playing in the FIBA World Cup as “a really strong chance.” Then, on Saturday, Simmons confirmed he hopes to join the Boomers.

“I also feel that Ben understands being with the Boomers and enjoying his basketball while representing his country,” said Goorjian. “He will also be around these guys that he has grown up with. He gets that and he wants that.”

Simmons on Saturday told the Daily Telegraph in Sydney that he indeed “looks forward” to playing for the Boomers.

“I’m currently rehabilitating my back injury and putting my full effort and focus towards that,” Simmons said. “I love what coach Goorjian is building with the Boomers and I look forward to being a part of the program in the future.”

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports Simmons “has been included in the team’s initial selection pool,” essentially their training camp roster. On Monday, Basketball Australia released its preliminary roster for the Cup but Simmons wasn’t on it. Goorjian said that didn’t matter. “We made a spot for him. If he’s available by the time of Cairnes camp we will put him in and give him a good look,” said Goojian on SEN Monday. “He’s obviously when he’s at this best, he’s something that could really help.”

Simmons would be surrounded by players he’s known throughout his basketball playing life Down Under. Moreover, there are more than a few links between the Nets and Australian basketball. Patty Mills, who’s known Simmons since he was a child, is the captain of the Boomers who won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago. In addition to a number of other NBA players on the roster, Adam Caporn, the rising Nets assistant coach, is also an assistant for the Boomers.

This year’s FIBA World Cup will be played in venues throughout Asia with the championship round in Manila, the capital of Philippines and Southeast Asia’s basketball hotbed, on September 10.

Simmons, of course, hasn’t played for the Nets since February 15 and was officially shut down on March 28 to permit him to intensify his rehab from nerve impingement, not an uncommon side effect of back surgery. Simmons underwent a microdiscectomy on his back in Los Angeles a year ago Thursday. In recent discussions, experts have noted that it can take up to 18 months for an athlete to recover from back surgery.

At his press conference on April 23, Sean Marks had this to say about Simmons progress:

“He is checking the boxes on meeting different markers along the way. So at this point, he does not need surgery,” said the Nets GM, noting it appears there’s no need for a second procedure. “That is the hope going forward, that he will not have to endure another surgery and we can keep progressing. The timeline for this is that he’ll be back 100% probably by September 1. That would be the goal and he’s a full-go in training camp and ready to go.”

NBA training camps open the first week of October.

Goorgian’s comments came after the World Cup draw in Manila. He also offered encouragement to Simmons who hasn’t played for Australia’s national teams in an official competition since 2013 at the FIBA Oceania Championship shortly before his 17th birthday. Since then, injuries and free agency have interfered with Simmons availability.

“I think his (Ben’s) mindset is getting healthy, getting in shape and getting ready to play in this (World Cup),” Goorjian told SEN, noting he has been in talks with Simmons. “And I think he has been along that line for a while and I felt it last time.

“Our door is always open to him and during my time with the Boomers he has always been straightforward with me. There were unfortunate circumstances (why he didn’t play at Tokyo), but I feel like he is going to make himself available.”

Simmons has been rehabbing at HSS Training Center in Brooklyn since shutting down. Three times last week, he posted Instagram images of the facility at around 6:00 a.m. On Friday, he posted a photo sitting poolside on an apparent tropical getaway. Word around HSS is that he has been making progress in his rehab. No word from the Nets on whether a stint with the Boomers would be seen as a positive for the team.

Andrew Gaze, the Australian basketball legend (who played collegiate ball at Seton Hall), told SEN that he thinks getting Simmons some playing time before the start of the NBA season would help him in his return to NBA play.

“I think it would be fantastic for him.” said Gaze who also noted that Simmons would have to adjust his game from the NBA to succeed at the World Cup. He said he thinks the 6’11” Simmons could best help Australia’s chances as a big.

“If I was looking at him and seeing how he could best fit in with the other people that we’ve currently got right now, bring him in as a four-man (power forward),” he said. “Bring him in to play the 4 or the 5, I think that would give us a look that is tasty.”

Simmons inclusion would also strengthen the Boomers chances at a medal in the games. On Friday, just the possibility of Simmons playing was the lead item on the FIBA website, an indication of how the three-time All-Star and one-time All-NBA selection could affect things in Manila.

In addition to Simmons and Mills, Yuta Watanabe said this week that he’s interested in playing for Team Japan but that his ongoing free agency would be a factor in his decision. Joe Harris has played for Team USA in FIBA Americas competition. No word if he’ll be competing again. And Royal Ivey, the Nets assistant, is head coach of South Sudan.