"That sort of stuff, it bothers me."
Boomers head coach, Andrej Lemanis voiced his concerns during a media session in Perth today. He was asked about the recent wave of negative media coverage on various narratives involving Australia's NBA All-Star, Ben Simmons, and whether it would affect his participation with the Boomers. Those narratives included backlash on Simmons being withheld entry at Melbourne's Crown Casino, debate on prices of his training camp, his appearances at various AFL games - and talk about whether Simmons has "overstayed his welcome".
"I’ve seen it," Lemanis said. "Obviously Ben is at the higher end of that, with his superstar status that he carries. I saw it with Bogut when he was coming through. People would get on him. These guys are passionate about playing for their country and they want to play."
The head coach was clear about the unwavering support the players had, from him and from the organisation.
"There are a lot of other forces pulling at them. They are men who are managing careers and have decisions to make. We support them in all of that. They know what is going on and what is best for them with managing their careers. We are 100% supportive and we 100% support [Ben] in doing what is right for him at any particular time. As we all do - we all do what is right for ourselves.
"It frustrates you at times, I guess, with the negativity that surrounds that and again, in this campaign, Ben’s superstar status gets the attention but Ryan Broekhoff is a key piece of this team but he is having a baby and has chosen to be with his family. We support that 100%, as you should. Thon Maker wants to work on his game, as you should, no problems. That’s what’s best for him right now. Yeah, it frustrates me."
The Pick and Roll's Ben Mallis covered this topic in 2016, when discussing Simmons' potential impact on the Australian basketball landscape.
“In the first instance, Simmons will be adored. This much is guaranteed. Any Australian who challenges the norms on a global stage earns this treatment. But will it last? Is Australia ready for an NBA superstar who doesn’t play by the mainstream public rules?
The question isn’t actually whether Ben Simmons is ready to be the face of Australian basketball, but rather: are we ready for Ben Simmons, the Australian basketball star who can become our first great NBA athlete?”
Chris Young from Yahoo Sport Australia made relevant points on how we could lose Simmons' trust altogether.
If this is how Simmons is treated when he visits his home country, what incentive are we giving him to come back? To wear the green and gold jersey at the Olympics with pride?
If he continues to be treated with little other than scorn, why wouldn’t he simply remain in the States and hone his game for the team and fanbase that actually cares for him, and wants him to succeed?
What reason could Ben Simmons possibly have to want to represent his country, when that country rejected him outright?