Ben Simmons’ Philadelphia 76ers teammate Matisse Thybulle is expected to arrive in Australia’s pre-Olympic camp in LA on Wednesday, but Simmons remains a no-show as the team awaits a decision on his Tokyo Games commitment.
Thybulle’s pending arrival in camp is a big boost for the Australians given the Sydney-raised guard’s strong defensive mindset as shown through his NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection this season.
Simmons, though, is yet to inform Basketball Australia officials about his Olympic decision, which either way will have major ramifications on who the Boomers select and how the team plays.
It comes as Boomers coach Brian Goorjian is feeling “anxious” as he prepares to cut four players from a star-studded list to select his final 12-man squad for the Tokyo Olympic campaign.
Goorjian arrived in Los Angeles late last week to commence a drop-in camp in preparations for the Games alongside veteran locks like Patty Mills, Joe Ingles and Aron Baynes.
Boomers coach Brian Goorjian watches over training in LA in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics. Picture: Basketball Australia.Source:Supplied
The team’s original 19-man squad has been reduced to 17 players after Ryan Broekhoff (mental health) and Isaac Humphries (injury) pulled out.
Goorjian, like the rest of Australia, is also still waiting for official word from Simmons’ camp about his Olympic commitment.
The 76ers star’s likely withdrawal from the Olympics would cut the squad down to 16, meaning only one player from the current squad will miss out on Tokyo if you include the three replacement players.
The Boomers will select a final 12-man squad, and three replacements, ahead of warm-up games in Las Vegas before travelling to the Games.
It leaves Goorjian with a difficult decision to cut one player from a strong list of experienced and rising stars.
“Guys like Josh Green, Brock Motum, Duop Reath, and Xavier Cooks – there are five or six players that I’m anxious to see,” Goorjian said.
“I’ve got to move this thing to 15, so there is probably four or five spots there and there are guys there that I just haven’t seen in this environment before.”
Goorjian is also keen to run his eye over NBA stars Dante Exum and Matthew Dllavedova, who are both returning from extended injury lay-offs.
Exum hasn’t played since hurting his calf in early January, restricting him to just six games in the 2020-2021 NBA season.
Dellavedova has also faced an extensive stint on the sidelines after suffering a neck strain injury on April 25.
The NBA championship winning guard also missed the NBA season’s first 47 games because of a severe concussion and whiplash.
Goorjian, though, is feeling optimistic about Dellavedova and Exum’s fitness.
“I’m also anxious to see Delly and Exum,” he said.
“My way has been synergy and I haven’t been able to do that with those players, but I’ll get a good look at them before we move on to Vegas.”
Boomers star Dante Exum training in LA ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. Picture: Basketball Australia.Source:Supplied
Boomers legend Andrew Bogut believes the last spots in the Australian squad are “wide open”, and could come down to team synergy over talent.
“For Goorj, it is about figuring out what the team looks like,” Bogut said.
“I think our first six or seven players are pretty easy to pick, but it is that bench/fringe squad that some tough decisions are going to have to be made.
“There is also some guys playing in Europe that we haven’t seen much of, and it is hard to get a take on.
“So, it is going to be tough and those last five picks will probably be based on fit and feel rather than just names or talent.
“The other thing we’ve got to work out is who complements other players. For example, someone who is a flat-out shooter that you just can’t leave out, a lockdown defender or a hustle rebound guy.
“It just depends which way Goorj wants to play.”
The Boomers’ first Olympic warm-up game will be against Argentina in Las Vegas on July 10 before games against Team USA on July 12 and 16 and Nigeria on July 13.
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