MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — NBA star Ben Simmons has withdrawn from the Australia basketball team which will play exhibition matches against Canada and the United States at home next month.
Simmons had already made himself unavailable for the FIBA World Cup starting Aug. 31 in China, choosing to prepare for the next NBA season after signing a five-year, $170 million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers.
In a statement Sunday Simmons said he still hopes to play for Australia at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
Simmons said he made the decision to withdraw from Australia’s matches against Canada in Perth on Aug. 16 and 17 and the United States in Melbourne on Aug. 22 and 24 after speaking to Australia coach Andrej Lemanis.
“After talking with coach Andrej, we both agreed it was better for me to not participate in this year’s 2019 World Cup and exhibition games,” he said.
“With our focus being to win a medal at the 2020 Olympics, the Boomers’ preparation in the lead up to the world championships is of the utmost importance and me not playing allows the team to create the chemistry they need to compete at the highest level and qualify for the Olympics.
“I want to thank Basketball Australia for their continued support and I’m committed and excited to compete in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.”