In his first comments since announcing that he and Ben Simmons have been in communication about the Nets guard/forward joining the Australian national team, Brian Goorjian, head coach of the Boomers, dismissed talk of any deadline for Simmons, saying the invitation is an open one if Simmons feels fit enough to play in the FIBA World Cup.
“The media ... I keep reading different things, but the message is he wants to play and I really do believe that it’s something he wants to do, and right now, he’s in a process of getting healthy, and there’s no timeframe for him on it,” Goorjian said at a Melbourne United business lunch Friday, according to the Melbourne Age.
“He’s got an open end on it, an invitation to August 1st, and if you can come through the door and perform at his level, he’s going to be in there and giving us a much better chance to win.”
Goorjian, who led the Boomers to a bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics, dismissed reports this week in the Melbourne Herald-Sun that Basketball Australia had first given Simmons a “hard deadline” of early June, then extended it till August. He reiterated that he wants Simmons on the court when Australia opens World Cup play on August 25 in Okinawa, Japan.
Simmons reacted to Goorjian’s invitation last month by saying he wants to play and that he liked what the coach is doing with the national team which this year will have eight NBA players on the roster, not counting him. Simmons had played for Goorjian’s brother in high school.
Goorjian also talked about how he could use Simmons who at 6’11” can play multiple positions.
“Right now, we might have an issue with some size, but he could guard 1 through 5 for us – imagine him and [Josh] Giddey together? It’s like ‘wow’.
“It’s something he wants to do. It would be great for him to play with his mates, no baggage, walk in the front door with your mates and be you, play your game, be with your friends and enjoy basketball. I think he sees that and wants to do it.”
Among those mates, of course, is Patty Mills who is captain of the Boomers and Simmons Nets teammates. Adam Caporn, the Nets assistant coach, is also an assistant with the national team.
The Boomers open camp on August 1 in Cairns, Australia, then play three exhibition games in Melbourne vs. Venezuela on August 14, Brazil on August 16 and South Sudan on August 17. If Simmons plays in those games, they would be his first minutes on a court since February 15. About 21,000 tickets have already sold over the three games without a commitment from Simmons.
Goorjian said he’ll bring 19 Aussies into camp and that cutting things down could be ““brutal.”
“The game of basketball at the top level is brutal and … If you’re sitting here saying ‘who is No.11, who is No.12?’, if it isn’t a tough cut, how the heck are you going to win a gold medal?,” Goorjian said.
Australia is in the midst of a changeover from the program’s old guard led by 34-year-old Mills and 32-year-old Matthew Dellevedova to a younger set that includes 22-year-old Giddey and 20-year-old Dyson Daniels.
Simmons recently posted pictures of himself working out vs. Nets teammates Royce O’Neale and David Duke Jr. at the University of Miami. He reportedly has yet to be cleared for full contact competition.
- ‘I’m not recruiting you’: Boomers coach says if Simmons is healthy he’s welcome - Roy Ward - Melbourne Age
- Do we need Ben? Boomers “good to go” without Simmons - Matt Logue - Melbourne Herald-Sun