Australia’s national team coach Brian Goorjian has strongly defended Ben Simmons as a “really good human” as the NBA star’s relationship with the Philadelphia 76ers continues to disintegrate.
Simmons was suspended from the 76ers’ season opener against New Orleans after was sent home from practice for “conduct detrimental to the team”. It was the latest bombshell development in a messy situation which has turned increasingly ugly as the former No 1 draft pick attempts to force a trade away from Philadelphia.
Goorjian described the situation as “disappointing” and hoped the 25-year-old could quickly get his NBA career back on track.
“I just wish when I look at this that Ben could have been a part of our thing [at the Tokyo Olympics] and experienced that and got some enjoyment leading into the next step,” Goorjian told SEN. “I can only speak about my time, and our time with Ben Simmons.
“My brother coached him when he was at Box Hill. We’ve been a part of his career, our family followed him… the process of going through the Boomers. I know he wasn’t a part of it [at the Olympics], but how he handled himself through the whole thing, he was nothing but class.
“This kid is a very, very good human being and he’s a very good basketball player. I look at it and go god, おとこ, please fix this and let this kid blossom. He’s a tremendous talent, he’s a tremendous person, and I’m very much looking forward to when he starts representing the Boomers.”
Sixers coach Doc Rivers said the usual excitement of a season-opener had been blunted because of the Simmons saga.
“It’s a predicament that we’re in and that part is no fun. It really isn’t,” Rivers told reporters before the 76ers’ game against the Pelicans. “We get to play right now and Ben is not. I want Ben to be playing. That’s his job.”
Simmons still has four years and $147m (AU$196m) left on his max contract, but has become public enemy No 1 in Philadelphia. He was criticised by Rivers and fellow 76ers star Joel Embiid in the immediate aftermath of Philadelphia’s play-offs exit last season.
Rivers has been diplomatic ever since, but Embiid has continued to publicly voice his frustration about Simmons, with the All-Star centre saying earlier this week he did not want to be a “babysitter”.