In June 2009 Patty Mills waited for the phone to ring to hear that he would be drafted into the NBA. Five years later, he would earn a different type of ring, the kind you wear proudly on your hand, the kind that says NBA Champion.
Projected as a late first-round to early second-round pick, the Saint Mary’s point guard waited until the 55th pick to hear his name called where he would head to the Portland Trail Blazers. Many critics said he was too small to be able to match up with other NBA point guards, which is why he fell so low in the draft. The fact that he has missed a portion of the end of the 2009 season with injury hurt his stock as well.
As many other rookies, Mills struggled to find a spot in the rotation with Portland, a team that is known for its depth at guard. He appeared in 10 games in the 09’-10’ season averaging a mere 2.6 points in under four minutes of playing time.
The next season is where he began to show his true potential where he played in 56 games, but still found himself stuck behind a heavy guard orientated team. At the end of the season was not re-signed by Portland once his rookie contract expired.
When the NBA lockout hit, the Australian native returned to his homeland to play in the NBL with the Melbourne Tigers and then headed to China for a brief stint before the lockout ended.
Once the NBA was back in full swing, Patty began his journey with the San Antonio Spurs where little did he know how important he would be for their future.
On April 26, 2012 he poured in a career high 34 points and 12 assists against the Golden State Warriors; this was the point where the NBA began to take notice of the pesky, hard hustling scorer.
That summer at the London Olympics, Mills was not only the leader of the Australian national basketball team, he lead the entire tournament in points per game with 21.2, just above superstar Kevin Durant who was at 19.5 point per game. He played alongside Saint Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova, where all of Gael Nation was focused on watching their stars compete against the best in the world. He poured in 20 points against France with Spurs teammate Tony Parker guarding him.
Despite not receiving a metal in the Olympic games, Mills turned his focus to the upcoming season with the Spurs.
He played a solid role in the 2012-2013 regular season, averaging 5.1 points per game in 58 games for San Antonio. He switched between second and third string point guard, but once the postseason came around Mills found himself riding the bench as the Spurs advanced to the NBA finals and would fall to the Miami Heat in heartbreaking fashion.
The 2013-14 season rolled around with high expectations for the Spurs who wanted revenge for losing the Finals. Mills emerged as the back up point guard and even became the starter for a few weeks when Tony Parker was injured. In that time Mills was averaging almost 18 points as the Spurs where rolling into the playoffs with the number one seed. He finished the regular season averaging 10.2 points while playing in every game of the season.
While cruising through the first few rounds of the playoffs, San Antonio found themselves in a rematch, and after four games of the Finals they had the Heat right where they wanted.
After shooting 1-4 in the first half, Mills entered the third quarter not knowing the potential Championship winning game would become the “Patty Mills Show.”
He began to hit three pointer after three pointer, scoring 14 points in less than six minutes. This was the spark that would change his life forever, to the point where his name was trending worldwide on Twitter, and earned praise from the NBA broadcasters as he had all season long.
He finished the game with 17 points, as the Spurs dominated the Heat by… 17 points en route to the 2014 NBA Title.
Mills becomes the first Saint Mary’s player to earn an NBA Championship. It’s not just the fact that he earned the title, but how he became such a vital role on a veteran Spurs team that features a cast of future hall-of-famers, is what will be remembered about his role this past season.
We will have to wait to see what the future holds for Mills and San Antonio as his contract has now expired and could become a free agent come July. He is expected to earn a good size contract for next season whether it is with the Spurs or elsewhere. But no matter what team he ends up on, Game 5 of the 2014 NBA Finals is where he will be remembered for a long time.
Mills proves that with hard work and patience, even players from small Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California can earn a spot in NBA history to become one of the few that will wear a championship ring.