Mills ready to finalise NBA future
San Antonio Spurs and Boomers guard Patrick Mills pictured outside the Belconnen Basketball Centre in Canberra. Photo: STUART WALMSLEY
FIRST his NBA future and then the Olympic Games - Patrick Mills wants to finalise where he will play next season in the coming days so he can fully focus on his London mission.
Mills will return to Australian tomorrow to join the Australian Boomers in their Olympic training camp in Melbourne on Tuesday.
But before he concentrates on leading the team's bid for its first Olympic medal, the Canberra basketballer will decide whether he will remain with the San Antonio Spurs in the world's best league.
For the first time in his three-year NBA career, Mills is in control of his future.
Mills has a two-year contract with the Spurs, but there is a clause in his deal which allows him to explore his options before a June 25 deadline.
It is in stark contrast to Mills's first three years as a professional where he was forced to wait on clubs to decide if they want to sign or release him.
He joined the Spurs in March and was part of a superb play-off run before their championship hopes were dashed in the Western Conference final two weeks ago.
The Spurs helped reinvigorate Mills and he is keen to finalise his home for next season so he can lead the Boomers ''with a clear head''.
''I feel like I need to do my due diligence and really go and see what there is to make sure I explore every option,'' Mills told The Sunday Canberra Times.
''But in saying that, I really enjoy being in San Antonio and being part of that program.
''I definitely want it done soon and that is what I'm trying to do so that I can get it out of the way and go to London with a clear head with the Boomers.''
After months of uncertainty while his Chinese team refused to let him play in the United States, Mills signed with the Spurs to play alongside NBA greats Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in San Antonio as well as be coached by Gregg Popovich.
He will line-up against France's Parker and Argentina star Ginobili in one of the Boomers' pre-Olympic tournaments.
Despite seeing limited game time since he left St Mary's College three years ago, Mills insists he's ready to take charge of the Boomers.
Australian coach Brett Brown believes Mills can take his game to the next level in London and the point guard is confident he guide the team in its Olympic campaign.
Mills has missed the start of the Boomers' training camps, but the day after the Spurs were knocked out of NBA title contention, Mills was in the club's gym to ensure he didn't fall behind.
''I felt there was no time to have off and I'm excited now,'' Mills said. ''While [the Spurs were still playing] it was hard to be excited because we were focusing on the play-offs.
''That's unfortunately over and while you'd rather still be playing, the focus is now on the Boomers.''
Mills's whirlwind eight months will continue when he arrives home to prepare for his second Olympics.
In the past year he's played in Australia, China and returned to the NBA to join the Spurs in the first step to relaunching his career after a rollercoaster ride.
''I feel ready, I feel me growing as a basketballer and maturing into that leadership,'' Mills said.
''The challenge of being that leader, I feel like I'm going to grab it and go with it.
''I've been around long enough now, I've seen enough to know what I need to do to lead a team.''