Patrick Mills goes in for a lay-up past Russell Westbrook of the USA. Photo: MIKE SEGAR
Patrick Mills has blitzed the Olympic Games and now NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony says the Canberra point guard is ready to become a dominant force in the world's best basketball league.
Mills's superb Olympic campaign ended when the Australian Boomers lost to the United States 119-86 yesterday morning (Australian time).
But while the Boomers couldn't match the gold medal favourites, Mills again stood tall to lead Australia's hopes of causing a major upset. He finished with 26 points in another stellar game.
For the tournament, he averaged 21 points per game with a 39-point haul against Great Britain and a game-winning three-pointer against Russia.
During his three-year NBA career, Mills has spent most of his time on the fringes.
But New York Knicks star Anthony backed the 23-year-old to take on more responsibility when the US league resumes. ''Patty was playing well the whole tournament, he was shooting the ball well and running that team,'' Anthony said.
''He was getting out in the open court and making plays for everyone and himself.
''You can tell he's grown as a basketball player … it's hard to prepare for a guy like [Mills].
''You can just tell the way he's played [that he's improved], our league [the NBA] is all about opportunity and his opportunity is waiting.
''He's an exciting player to watch and be out there against.
''I like to watch him, we like to watch him as players and competitors so I hope his opportunity comes real quick.''
The Beijing Olympics four years ago launched Mills on to the professional radar and helped him land a deal in the NBA.
And London has the potential to give his career a similar boost after his starring role.
After a brief trip back to Canberra, Mills will return to the US to begin his second season with the San Antonio Spurs.
At the end of the last NBA season, Mills had offers to join rival franchises and gain a starting five position.
But he opted to stay with the Spurs to continue working with Australian coach Brett Brown - who is the Spurs assistant - as well as learning from All Star Tony Parker.
Brown has lavished Mills with praise after every game, saying he had earned the right to make the big plays in games.
''I think he is [ready for more responsibility] and more importantly [Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich] thinks he is,'' Brown said. ''When you watch him grab a game and get 39 [points] when we're about to be bumped out of the tournament … his level of commitment is shown in his fitness.
''He had a great tournament, he's learning how to be a point guard and a leader and I feel he can contribute at a higher level in San Antonio.
''I know Pop is really looking forward to giving him that opportunity.''
Kobe Bryant and US coach Mike Krzyzewski also said they were impressed with Mills. ''Patty Mills seems to get better and better every time you face him and I see him improve,'' Bryant said. Krzyzewski added: ''Mills had one of the outstanding Olympics of any player.''