There isn’t much needed to tweak a Brooklyn Nets team that is slated to enter the 2021-22 campaign with one of the most imposing starting lineups ever seen.
But Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden can’t do it alone — which makes finding the perfect pieces of the championship puzzle all the more necessary this offseason for a team looking to final win an NBA title.
The hope for Brooklyn is that they found an invaluable piece in veteran guard Patty Mills, who carved out a niche as a vital bench piece for a decade with the San Antonio Spurs; one of the most successful teams in the NBA over the last 20 years.
“It’s exciting that you’re in a position where you’re playing for something each and every day,” Mills said this weekend after signing a two-year, $12 million deal with Brooklyn earlier this summer. “It’s the competitive fire underneath me that enjoys that. That welcomes the spotlight. That welcomes those big moments. It’s stuff that makes you want to get better and continue to learn about the game and learn about yourself.”
While the Spurs have taken a step back during a pseudo-rebuild, the Nets are perceived as one of the favorites to win it all in 2022 — something that played a large part in Mills making the difficult decision to leave San Antonio.
“Being in the NBA for a few years now, being in San Antonio for 10 of those seasons … I think it was an opportunity for me to turn the page of a new chapter,” Mills said. “Speaking about Brooklyn and you know everything that I’ve learned, on the court and off the court. The culture of the city I think was something that was very attractive to me — I’m a culture guy.”
A team that was decimated by injuries last year, the Nets’ depth was no match for the eventual NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks, who defeated Brooklyn in seven games during the Eastern Conference second round. That’s where Mills steps in.
Over the last six years, Mills has averaged 10 points and 2.7 assists in 23.1 minutes per game in a role he should continue to keep in Brooklyn as Irving’s backup. He has the capability to put up bigger numbers, as seen at the Tokyo Olympics this summer when he averaged 23.3 points and 6.3 assists for an Australian National Team that won the bronze medal.
“The conversation that I had with Kevin [Durant] was so pure and so genuine,” Mills said. “Being able to understand that he’s such a pure hooper… It was exciting for me to know that there’s an opportunity there for me to try to be who I am like I am in the national team.”