There is only ten days left until the 2012/13 NBA season reaches tip-off. That’s ten nerve wracking days for three elite Australian basketball players who hope to take the court on October 30th.
One is Andrew Bogut who cautiously is awaiting a doctor’s appointment Monday morning which will tell him whether he will be able to return to an NBA court for the first time in almost 9 months.
Another is Luke Nevill, who currently is competiting day in, day out, simply for the chance to keep his jersey for one more day. Hopefully he still has an NBA locker in two weeks time.
And then there is Australia’s favourite pocket rocket… Patty Mills!
Part 2 – Patty Mills
The only game Mills has been a part of since the 2012 Olympic games was a 4 point, 1 assist and 1 rebound effort during the Spurs 106-77 drubbing of visiting seven time Italian League champions Montepaschi Siena on October 6th. Since then Mills has been inactive due to a ankle injury suffered during his 18 minutes against Montepaschi.
The injury is a unwelcome set back during what will be Patty Mills attempt to solidify himself in this league. Other Australian’s have seen brief 2-3 year NBA stints like Chris Anstey and Nathan Jawai, both of these players then quickly discovered that the NBA often tires of a player who has been unable to establish himself within three seasons of play.
Last season for Patty was one of complete disarray. Due to an NBA lockout Patty spent time in Australia and China before earning a short 16 game stint with the San Antonio Spurs. Mills went through an entire year and three continents looking for a stable place for his basketball game. Even in San Antonio this was unavailable to Mills as one night he would be scoring 30 points the next earning a DNP-CD (Did Not Play Coaches Decision).
The Spurs have since signed Patty to a one year deal for 2012/13, rumoured to be worth around $1.9 million. It is no question Patty clearly has what it takes to play in the NBA, anyone who can drop 20 points against rookie of the year Kyrie Irving, 27 points against Steve Nash before going off for 34 against Golden State all in only 16 games has shown he can play in this league.
Even San Antonio Spurs and Australian Boomers coach Brett Brown let it be know during the Olympics that Patty Mills had been working vigilantly on his game in order to take the next step. Brown and Mills worked out together endlessly in the gym over 2012.
‘People just wouldn’t believe what he did with me in San Antonio the three months prior to coming to Australia and getting started again’ Brown said during the Olympic Games.
‘We shot together a lot, more than I have with any other player and I’ve been lucky to be around some good players over my years. He’s come into this whole program thinner than he’s ever been, his fitness is at a world-class level. His face, if you look at his arms, he’s all cut up, he’s ready to go. ‘You combine the repetition of shooting and the commitment with being fit – he’s earned the right to do well, as he can… all he needs now, is minutes.”
Last season Patty Mills was the number one ranked spot up shooter in the NBA last season, scoring 1.62 points per play in that type of situation. Coming in at number two was Steve Novak who scored on those types of possessions 52.6% of the time, 2.6% less than Mills.
In comparison New York’s Steve Novak had 186 shot attempts in spot up situations whilst Mills had just the 28 from his 16 NBA games.
The San Antonio system fits Patty’s game perfectly. A team known for their love of the corner three now features Mills who shot 50% from this spot last season whilst in San Antonio. (statistics courtesy of crunchtimeshots.com)
With the benefit of a full training camp, unlike last season, the backup position to Tony Parker could very well be his to take, Gary Neal and Nando De Colo may think otherwise, but so far it is clear from the pre-season that Gregg Popovich feels that he has found his back up point guard in Patty Mills.
“Mills is a fiery, offensive player. He can shoot the three and really score, and that’s what he looks to do when he comes in the game” Popovich said of Mills in August.
Mills ability to score isn’t really in question here. Mills averaged 10.3 points and 1.5 treys on 48.5 percent shooting in just under 16.5 minutes per game last season. In order to become a legitimate point guard in the NBA however you need to develop a certain level of consistency that Mills either hasn’t shown yet or perhaps been allowed to show due to his minutes.
There will be no more important time for Patty Mills than 2012/13. Luckily it appears Mills has been cleared by NBA medics and will be a part of the Spurs roster that take the court against New Orleans in the Spurs opening game. Can he make the transition from the guy filling out the gaurd spot on an NBA roster to a legitimate back up point guard like well known players Mo Williams, Eric Maynor or JJ Barea.
It’s clear from the love Patty receives Down Under there are 22 million Aussies who think he can, we just need to convince 1 or 2 more people, namely those on the San Antonio Spurs coaching staff.