03 May 2010
Patty Mills is tired.
In his rookie season in Portland, Mills appeared in 10 games and played a total of 37 minutes. He also logged 12 minutes of action in three playoff games. So why exactly is this kid from Australia so wiped out? Well, this wasn’t your typical rookie year folks.
In many ways it was trial by fire.
From uncertain if he’d be signed by Portland, to finally getting comfy with the Blazers, to multiple trips to the D-League with the Idaho Stampede, and finally back to sit the bench in Portland, Mills is a bit exhausted. It’s not from playing in games either.
It’s the mind games.
“The mental toughness for me was the toughest part of the whole season,” said Mills, when asked about the biggest challenge during his first year in the NBA.
“It’s brutal. I’ve never been involved in something like this before. I basically started with a run of injuries during the summer. Then I came back and I was on the roster, but then I was sent down to the D-League back and forth. And then you come back and think you are on the team, and then they make some trades. Over the last month or two before the season ends, it’s more mentally than physically.”
With his first season behind him, Mills prepares to head back to Australia in the coming months to begin training to play for the National Team in the World Championships. Their first series is against Argentina at the end of June. But before Patty gets to that point, he still has some NBA business to tend to.
Back when Portland faced Golden State on April 14, Mills played 13 minutes and finished with 11 points in the loss. It was the tenth game he appeared in during the season – thus believed that Mills’ contract would be guaranteed for next season.
According to Patty, that is not the case when it comes to his contract.
“That’s for certain players,” explained Mills, who is unsure of his future with the Blazers.
“I have no idea. It was tough for me to get in to the position I was this year. So next year, to be honest I have no idea. I can’t really control that at the moment. We’re talking about that with my agent. That will be done before I go back to Australia obviously. For me to get something organized before I start with the National Team, you don’t want that lingering in the back of your head over the summer while you’re playing for your National Team.”
With the end of Portland's season not even a week long, some within the organization wonder if Mills will be back with the Blazers. It's a legit concern, one that will be played out in time along with many question marks that surround the team this offseason.
Patty may be looking for another contract in Portland, yet it's not a given he'll receive one.
As Mills enters another summer of doubtfulness, more basketball awaits.
He’s hopeful his watching and learning around the league translates to success with the Australian National Team – where Mills led the Boomers at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with 14.2 points per game. But can you really apply your craft if you barely sniffed the floor in the Association?
“It’s different than watching tape. You’re sitting on the bench, but you are involved whether you are on the court or not. You’re in the locker room before the game. You’re listening to the game plans. There’s a lot of experience. You’re learning from your teammates and the other team.
“I’m grateful for what I’ve been through this year. I’ve learned a lot and think I’m a better player from watching and learning. But to go through a season, it makes you a better person as well.”
Until training with the National Team gets underway, Mills plans to take a little time away from the court. After everything he’s been through over the past year – from the draft, to his foot injury before the start of Summer League, to the ups and downs of life in the NBA and D-League – a break would do Patty some good.
And he knows it.
“It’s crucial for the amount of basketball we’ll be playing over the summer to take the time off. The year that we went through with all the injuries, I don’t know what else there is. It was tough,” Patty continued.
“For me, haven’t played much since my injury – over the last eight to ten months almost –but it’s important just to get away from it all and recharge for what’s next.”