NBA All-Star Ben Simmons’ mystery lower back injury could derail Australia’s Olympic dream.
It was hoped the 23-year-old Melburnian could be a difference-maker and lead the Boomers to a breakthrough medal in Tokyo after a history of gut-wrenching Olympic near misses.
The Herald Sun contacted Basketball Australia on Tuesday but officials were not prepared to comment about Simmons.
Simmons remains under an injury cloud with a return to the court the great unknown for NBA playoff hopefuls Philadelphia 76ers.
The Australian hurt his lower back last week in a 76ers practice session.
He sat out of a game against the Brooklyn Nets then lasted only five minutes of Saturday’s loss to the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks.
76ers coach Brett Brown, who answered the Boomers’ SOS last year to step up and coach the national team at the Olympics, could not shed any light on Simmons’ status on Tuesday.
“I don’t know,” Brown said before Monday night’s 129-112 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
“It really is kind of, like, how long is a piece of string? Who knows? Who knows?
“Whatever the time equals on days, games, period of time, then we can talk more honestly as this thing shakes out. But as it sits right now, that’s how I see the world.”
Simmons, who had preliminary scans in Milwaukee, has averaged 16.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 8.3 assists this season at the 76ers.
The Aussie will reportedly be sidelined for at least the next two weeks.
The 76ers sit in fifth position in the NBA Eastern Conference.
Depending on the severity of the injury, the 76ers will gear everything around having Simmons back on the floor in time for the NBA post-season.
The risk of any further injury or setback for the two-time All-Star and former NBA Rookie of the Year could however prompt the Sixers ownership to pressure Simmons to sit out the Olympics.
Citing sources, esteemed ESPN basketball insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported Simmons was still undergoing treatment, with a course of action to be decided upon soon.
“This isn’t a day-to-day injury; Simmons will miss time,” Wojnarowski said.
“How much time?
“That’s still unclear.”
Proud Australian Simmons has yet to publicly commit to the Boomers for the Olympics.
It was hoped the Brown appointment last November would get Simmons into the national program, amid concerns of a disconnect with former Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis.
Luckless Australian NBA star Dante Exum also broke down on Tuesday with a sprained left ankle.
The Cleveland Cavaliers guard landed awkwardly in the second quarter and despite his best efforts to brush off the setback teammates were forced to foul for him to get off the floor.
Exum, who missed time earlier this season with a right ankle sprain, was quickly ruled out for the remainder of the game.