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Mills keen to be back on court

Date

Chris Dutton

Patrick Mills refuses to let a turbulent three months and his uncertain NBA future ''break'' his love of basketball and derail his preparations for the London Olympics.

Speaking to The Canberra Times yesterday from the United States, Mills admitted he has been disillusioned by his inability to play games after his Chinese contract saga put his immediate career into limbo.

But the star Australian Boomers point guard hopes his frustrating 12 months will end next week if the Portland Trail Blazers trade him to another NBA franchise.

As many as four clubs - including the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, New Orleans Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers - expressed a desire to sign him before the March 15 deadline.

However, the Trail Blazers can decide to hold on to Mills's contract rights, which could cause a disruption to his Olympic preparations.

''I feel like I've seen it all,'' Mills said. ''These last few months have been strictly business, there hasn't been a time when I could just focus on basketball.

''It's almost taken the fun away from just playing the game … there's a business side of things that you have to take care of.

''But you deal with adversity, it feels like it's trying to break me, but I won't let it.''

The NBA lockout last year started a rollercoaster of emotions for Mills.

He returned to Australia to play for the Melbourne Tigers in the NBL before China's Xinjiang Flying Tigers made him an offer believed to be more than $1 million.

But the club bizarrely accused him of faking a hamstring injury in January and terminated his contract. Mills then returned to the US, but he needed an international clearance from Xinjiang to resume his NBA career.

The Tigers rejected his request for a FIBA clearance until last week.

Mills - a restricted free agent - is now eligible to play in the second half of the NBA season, but the Trail Blazers control his future.

They have a full 15-man roster and Mills can only play again for Portland if the Trail Blazers cut someone or trade him in the coming days.

If they don't trade him, it is likely his only option for game time before the Olympics will be in Europe or Puerto Rico.

They're options Mills concedes are ''not ideal'' as he attempts to lead the Australian Boomers to their first Olympic medal.

''In a nutshell I'm in limbo waiting for Portland to come up with a decision,'' Mills said.

''I trained hard, played hard in China and when they questioned my integrity it hurt me as a player and a person.

''The big picture is the Olympics and I'm trying to do everything I can to play games and get in shape.

''Plan B [if I don't get traded] is to play overseas

''The Chinese deal got me caught up in a lot of ways, but I don't regret going there and I did have fun … if things go bad you have to deal with it.

''It's part of me growing up and learning to deal with things like this.''

To get ready for a return to playing, Mills has returned to his old college - St Mary's in California - to train.

He spends three hours every day in the gym and on the court despite not knowing when he will get a chance to play again.

And he said watching St Mary's - which boasts four Australian Institute of Sport graduates - win the West Coast Conference title earlier this week helped reignite his basketball passion.

''The whole school has been helping me and giving me access to everything even though I don't go there any more,'' Mills said.

''The situation is frustrating, but I feel I'm in a position to handle it and being at St Mary's helps.

''I can't thank them enough … I see how much fun the guys have and seeing them win was an unbelievable feeling, I feel like that fun is back.''

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