Patty Mills has already won an NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs dynasty, and now he’s looking to win another with what he hopes is a mini-dynasty in Brooklyn.
Mills, 33, signed a two-year, $12-million mid-level exception deal to effectively replace Spencer Dinwiddie in the Brooklyn backcourt, and is now looking to add to the championship DNA with the Nets after playing in 90 postseason games with the Spurs.
“How can I fit myself in to make a great impact on the team and for the team?” Mills, who won a title alongside Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili with the Spurs in 2014, said Thursday night on a Zoom call with reporters from his native Australia, where he is visiting for the first time in two years due to the pandemic.
“And I think knowing that you’re all in for a championship, and you have that mindset and feel throughout the group that every day is working towards something, that’s an exciting feeling: to know that every time you walk in the gym or in the weight room, it’s for a championship or the betterment of the team.”
Mills is enjoying the coffee at home in Australia, and said he’s looking forward to sampling the coffee shops in Brooklyn. It was a conversation with Kevin Durant that helped him decide to sign with the Nets.
“The conversation I had with Kevin was so pure and so genuine, being able to understand that he’s such a true pure hooper, and to go back-and-forth about basketball specifics,” Mills said. “It’s exciting for me to know there’s an opportunity there for me to try to be who I am.”
The 6-foot-1 Mills averaged 10.8 points and 2.4 assists while shooting 37.5 percent from deep last season. He joins a new-look Nets team that also added forward James Johnson, wing DeAndre’ Bembry, guard Jevon Carter and rookies Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe while returning Bruce Brown and Blake Griffin.
Mills could well replace Dinwiddie as the Sixth Man in support of the “Big 3” of Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving but he said he’s looking forward to “going through that process” of figuring it all out when he gets to Brooklyn
“What can you do individually to make the group better?” he said. “A lot of it starts in the locker room. A lot of it starts off the court to be able to come together, and this is a great opportunity for me to insert myself into a group that’s already established.
“There’s something there about really diving into what it means to be a Net and that connection to the Brooklyn community. Then it’s the understanding of the NBA and of the season and the marathon of games that it is and how to go about it. So it’s a lot of all of the above, but … I think what I’ll be able to bring is that leadership and that experience, coming from a winning culture environment.”
Nets GM Sean Marks looked to improve the team’s porous defense during the offseason by adding defensive-minded players like Bembry and Carter, and he sees Mills as someone who can help on that end as well.
“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,” Marks said earlier this summer. “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 inflict damage on both ends of the court.
“So 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.”
Mills poured in 42 points in Australia’s bronze-medal game win over Luka Doncic and Slovenia, and is looking forward to carrying that momentum into Brooklyn.
“After a good Tokyo Olympics campaign, being able to ride the wave of that momentum and take it into Brooklyn is something I’m looking forward to … share the court with guys like that,” he said. “I’m really going to continue to learn about the game and continue to get better myself and find little ways that I can do that.”