Basketball World Cup 2019: Boomers Aron Baynes and Chris Goulding, Ben Simmons withdrawal, Jonah Bolden
Australia’s basketball World Cup campaign may have a Ben Simmons-shaped question mark but the Boomers are still confident of making waves.
While Simmons wasn’t the only Aussie NBA star to pull out — his 76ers teammate Jonah Bolden pulled out for personal reasons over the weekend — the first Aussie NBA All-Star was the biggest name.
The 22-year-old superstar pulled out of the World Cup after becoming our richest athlete when he signed his five-year $241.6 million contract with Philadelphia.
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Originally set to play in the World Cup, Simmons decided “it was best that I use the time in September to return to Philadelphia to acquaint myself with my new teammates and prepare for the upcoming NBA season”.
And his Aussie teammates were quick to back the superstar.
Aron Baynes, the seven-year NBA veteran who was traded from the Boston Celtics to the Phoenix Suns in the off-season, said it was easy to understand the decision.
Baynes said Simmons was doing what he needed to do and felt was right for his career.
“You can’t really judge someone until you’ve walked in their shoes,” the 32-year-old said.
“I definitely haven’t walked in Ben’s shoes so he’s got a lot on his plate as well so I’m not going to pass any judgment on that. He’s doing what he feels is best and what he feels he needs to do for his career and his family.”
Boomes teammate Chris Goulding agreed, but added that while it would be great to add a player the calibre of Simmons to the Boomers squad, he hasn’t been able to play in major international tournaments for the past four or five years.
It means the side can continue to develop around the players who have consistently been putting their hands up for the Boomers.
“Everyone completely understands it,” Goulding said.
“A lot of the guys that are in the NBA have been in his position as well. Sometimes you need to look after the personal side of things.
“Whether that happens one year or two years or whatever it is, everyone understands these guys are making a serious amount of money, it’s their livelihood, they can set their family up for the rest of their lives. Of course some people need to do what’s best for their club but there is no animousity or anything like that because half our team has been through something like that and it’s just part and parcel of playing at the pinnacle of the sport.
“When someone like Ben and Dante (Exum) are available to play for the Boomers, of course some things will change and game plans will change but until then we’ll just continue to work around our core group as best we can.”
For Baynes, who has been in the NBA for some time, he took up his $5.4 million player option with the Celtics before being traded to the Suns.
While it’s not in the same ballpark as the Simmons pay check, Baynes said he didn’t consider skipping the World Cup because of what Australian basketball has done for his career.
“For me personally, my career wouldn’t be where it is without playing for the national team,” he said.
“So I’m very thankful for all the opportunity I’ve been given and I feel honoured and privileged to be able to pull on the green and gold jersey, so I don’t take it lightly.
“For us (the Boomers), we don’t care about the ‘what if’, we care about what we do have moving forward and what we have to do to prepare to get all the talent we do have to play as a group. That’s what we’re focused on right now so there’s not too many external distractions that are coming between that.”
Originally published as ‘You can’t judge until you’ve walked in his shoes’