11 September 2009
Patrick Mills is expected to return to Portland within the next ten days to be evaluated by the Blazers and finish up some rehab on his injured right foot according to David Patrick, an assistant coach for the Australian National team and at St. Mary’s College.
“He’s meeting with a specialist for the last time Monday [in Australia], and then he’s supposed to get back on the court and do a little bit of running,” Coach Patrick said by phone while in Las Vegas on a recruiting trip for the Gaels.
“He’s on track but with a foot you never want to push it. He’s back home training at the Australian Olympic Institute where he lifts about four hours a day as part of his rehab, doing conditioning in the pool and riding a bike. They are training to keep his weight and everything in tact before he gets back on the court.”
Coach Patrick went on to say that Aaron Goodwin – who represents Mills for Goodwin Sports Management – said Portland wants to evaluate Mills and his foot before they make a decision about Mills’ future with the team.
“Patty has had a lot of opportunities to go to Europe and people want to sign him regardless of the injury for big money, but that’s not what he wants to do. He’s always wanted to make the NBA. He wants to play for the Blazers or play in the NBA this year. That’s what he wants to do. But at this point, he’s just going to come back to Portland and see what happens – see if they place him overseas, keep him or let him go. You never know how it’s going to go – it’s tricky.”
David and Patty have known each other since Mills was a ten-year old ball boy while David was playing for the Canberra Cannons of the National Basketball League in Australia and New Zealand during the 1999-2000 season. Nearly six years later, Patrick was hired to be an assistant coach on Randy Bennett’s staff at St. Mary’s where Patty was a star recruit.
“He’s like a little brother two me,” Coach Patrick said, noting the two speak a couple times a week.
David originally accompanied Mills to Portland in early July for three days so Patty could get an early jump on workouts before the start of team summer league practices. He left Patty the morning of the day he fractured his right foot minutes into Portland’s second practice.
Coach Patrick was on the road recruiting and had just sat down for dinner when his cell phone went off at 6:45. It was Patty.
“He told me he hurt his foot. I told him don’t worry about it – that he probably rolled his ankle. And he said no, it’s worse than that. He said he felt something pop. It was unfortunate. He’s a good kid and it’s phenomenal that he’s been hurt twice in the last five months – and he’d never been hurt before.”
Back on January 29, Mills broke his right hand trying to break his fall in a game against Gonzaga University and did not return until the West Coast Conference Tournament in March. But once the draft hit in June, NBA teams became cautious of Mills’ injury leaving him to fall to the Blazers in the second round with the 55th overall selection. Yet even then, Portland believed Mills was the perfect second-round steal: a lightning quick 6’0 point guard with an easy shooting stroke ready to impress at the Las Vegas Summer League. He never made it to Vegas.
“He’s Tony Parker quick. People who saw him in the Olympics, he was blowing past Chris Paul and Jason Kidd, who are both pretty damn fast. His speed on the court is something you can’t coach. He lives for the big stage. That’s rare to find in a kid. He’s just a hard worker. Three years ago he couldn’t shoot. But he worked at it relentlessly. At St. Mary’s we’d workout at 6:45am, come in at lunch time and then stay after practice. It was a routine we did. So it’s hard to see someone put in that hard work and then have it taken from them.”
Mills underwent successful surgery before the start of summer league and was expected to miss four to six months. Since then Portland has solidified the point by adding free agent Andre Miller to round at a trio which includes Steve Blake and Jerryd Bayless.
Battling back physically is one challenge for Patty, but overcoming the mental obstacle of another injury filled set-back so close to grasping a dream is a whole different fight – one that Mills is apparently winning.
“Mentally, he’s pretty mature about it. His approach has been better than some who are put in that position,” David added.
“When he got hurt, he had people calling him saying how sorry they were. He’d call me and be like, ‘DP, why are they acting like I died. I only hurt my foot’. I had to tell him that people just feel for you. He feels like God put him through this in January when he hurt his hand against Gonzaga, and that he was being prepared for this.”
For Coach Patrick, the hardest part is knowing everything that could have gone bad for Mills – the broken hand, falling in the draft to the second round, and then fracturing his foot - has gone wrong.
“It’s tough to see. That’s the unfortunate part,” David’s voice faded.
So for now, the plan is to assess the situation once Mills has been checked-out by the team and make a decision on his future, with both David and Patty hoping for the best from the Blazers.
“It’s still up in the air what they are going to do with him.”
pic via: abc.net.au
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