It’s been a seismic summer for Patty Mills.
In August, Mills returned to his native Australia for the first time in two years, bringing with him a long-sought prize — the country’s first Olympic medal in men’s basketball. While Mills was leading Australia to Olympic bronze in Tokyo and approaching that homecoming, he was also making a decision to uproot himself from his NBA home of the last decade.
A few days after the Olympics concluded, Mills made it official in signing with the Brooklyn Nets for his 13th NBA season.
“I think it was an opportunity for me to turn the page on a new chapter,” said Mills. “And speaking about Brooklyn, and everything that I've learned — on the court, off the court — the culture of the city I think it was something that was very attractive to me and my wife. So to be able to make a next step I guess in our life was very exciting for us. The familiar faces around the organization is something that was very comfortable as well, especially for my wife. But I think at the end of the day, you know, the culture of what the city is, the organization is, everything that is based around that I think was very intriguing to me and interesting.”
After 10 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, Mills is not venturing into the unknown. Nets general manager Sean Marks was part of San Antonio’s front office for much of the first half of Mills’ time with the Spurs and was an assistant coach when Mills and the Spurs won the NBA championship in 2014.
“His style of play will fit seamlessly in with how Steve (Nash) is running things and with the group, and honestly what our needs are, both offensively and defensively,” said Marks. “I don’t think people realize how good a defender Patty can be. I mean, he's a gnat, he's a pain out there. When you've got a guy like that, who's in elite shape at all times, he can impact the game on both ends of the court. We’re certainly thrilled about adding him and his experience on the court.
“But then I think you look at Patty and what he brings off the court from a culture fit, from a background, he's obviously played on championship teams before, he's been around high, high-level players, he's coming into this on an all-time high. Now, we talked back when I was in San Antonio about these were his goals, was to get on the podium for Australia. I spent a few hours with him yesterday, and just to see him beaming and on this bronze metal high was like nothing else. So we're absolutely thrilled for him that he's able to achieve that goal. And that'll carry forward into the season.”
In Tokyo, Mills opened the Olympics as one of Australia’s flag bearers and closed it with an epic performance in his fourth Olympics since he went to Beijing in 2008. He led all players in scoring average in London in 2012. In Rio, Mills and the Boomers came up a point short in the bronze medal game against Spain.
But in Tokyo, their only loss in six games came in the semifinals against the United States. Against Slovenia in the bronze medal game, Mills had 42 points and nine assists in 107-93 win that clinched the historic medal. He finished the tournament averaging 23.3 points, third among all players.
Drafted 55th overall in 2009 by Portland, Mills thrived after signing with the Spurs in March 2012. Over his 12 NBA seasons, he’s averaged 8.9 points and 2.3 assists in 19.8 minutes per game while shooting 38.8 percent from 3-point range.
With the Nets, Mills will slide into a role he filled so seamlessly through his time with the Spurs — a versatile and reliable guard off the bench for a team with championship goals. He gives Brooklyn a third player to handle the lead guard role when necessary and can also play alongside either James Harden or Kyrie Irving.
“I think it’s a puzzle that you’re excited about putting together and working out how it fits, and I think that journey of the process is exciting,” said Mills. “It’s exciting for me and I hope it’s exciting for others: working out how this is gonna work. That’s part of the journey that I think I thrive in, and again, it’s back to the point of what can you do for the betterment of the team, and having that understanding and going back and forth. It’s a conversation, and I think that’s what I’m excited about. And you go back to the point and the conversation that I had of being able to be in an environment where you’re empowered to be yourself, and I think looking from the outside-in last season, seeing that that’s a massive characteristic of the team is how everyone feels empowered, and not just James but everyone else as well. So I obviously haven’t been to Brooklyn yet, so those conversations, we can dive in more, but I’ll stand by my guns and say I’m really excited by the opportunity just to go through that journey and work out that process.”