Ben Simmons.
Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons needs to determine the direction of his international future. Image by AP PHOTO
  • basketball

Time for Simmons to make Boomers call: Luc Longley

Jasper Bruce February 12, 2024

Now is the time for Ben Simmons to determine whether he wants to have an international career, says Boomers legend Luc Longley ahead of the Paris Olympics.

And despite Australia striking out at the 2023 World Cup amid a period of roster transition, Longley believes a second Olympic medal is “just as likely as anything” at the Games in France.

Brooklyn guard Simmons returned to the court last month after missing 12 weeks with a nerve impingement, the latest in a string of injuries that have sidelined him since leaving Philadelphia in 2022.

Ben Simmons (left).
 Simmons (left) has been in fine form since returning to NBA action with the Nets last month. Image by AP PHOTO 

Those health issues forced Simmons out of last year’s World Cup, where he had looked set to end an absence from the national set-up that dates back to 2013.

Simmons missed the 2016 Olympics to focus on preparations for his NBA rookie season, and the 2020 Games to practise his shooting following a tough patch during the 2020/21 play-offs.

But the 27-year-old, known for his play-making and defensive IQ, has looked back to his best since returning for the Nets.

NBA great Longley, an assistant coach at the Boomers between 2013 and 2019, said Simmons needed to end the suspense over whether he  wants to play for Australia.

“Now is probably the time for him to either get on with it, or not. We’ll see,” he told AAP at the launch of the Hahn Half Court, Half Pub experience in Sydney.

“He’s said he wants to play for a long time, it’s been about getting his body right and the right opportunity.

“It’d be great to see him in the green and gold.”

Luc Longley.
 NBA and Australian basketball great Luc Longley, during his time as assistant coach of the Boomers. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS 

Despite boasting a wealth of NBA talent, the Boomers failed to advance past the second round of last year’s World Cup.

It became clear the Boomers, who won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, were still adjusting to a transitioning roster.

Young talents Josh Giddey and Josh Green became starters for the first time at a major tournament, while Dyson Daniels and Jack White were new to the set-up.

“What I took from the World Cup is there’s a massive change in roster, a bit like what happened when my generation left,” said Longley, who represented Australia at three Olympic Games.

With Joe Ingles and Patty Mills in their mid-30s, the Boomers lack an obvious shooting guard around whom to build for the future.

Ben Simmons (right) during a Boomers training camp in 2019.
 Ben Simmons (right) during a Boomers training camp in 2019. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS 

Giddey and Simmons, Australia’s two highest-profile guards, are both creators rather than prolific scorers but three-time NBA champion Longley remains bullish on the Boomers’ chances in Paris.

“Every roster has holes, you just don’t see perfect rosters,” he said. 

“Everyone’s got a need, everyone’s always trying to improve their roster.

“International basketball is such a mixed bag of factors: talent, timing, age, and all the things that go into it. 

“I wouldn’t want to bet against us, put it that way.

“We’re just as likely to get up and get a medal as anything. 

“But as we saw at the World Cup, things have to flow your way a bit as well.”