Patty Mills on NBA championships, San Antonio Spurs and the Rio Olympics

 In the next seven months Patty Mills could become a two-time NBA champion and an Olympic medallist.

Or not.

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This is the high wire he and several other Australian NBA players balance on in 2016 with their clubs in contention for the NBA championship and the Boomers leaving no doubts they are aiming for a gold medal in Rio.

Mills' San Antonio Spurs are rated in the top three of most experts' lists of contenders as they sit in second place in the western conference with a 31-6 record behind Andrew Bogut's Golden State Warriors (33-2), the reigning NBA champions.

In the big time: Australian Boomers guard Patty Mills has carved out a fine career with San Antonio in the NBA.
In the big time: Australian Boomers guard Patty Mills has carved out a fine career with San Antonio in the NBA. Photo: Getty Images

Matthew Dellavedova's Cleveland Cavaliers (24-9) sit atop the eastern conference.

While the Spurs' aspirations are nothing new, the Boomers remain adamant about their aim for a gold medal.


"That's our goal, mate, and we have said it from day one," Mills said. "We have a lot of guys now who are experienced but still young, that can come together and understand the goal and move forward together as a group. 

"I think if we can keep our eyes on the prize we are going to give it one hell of a crack."

On the charge: Spurs guard Patty Mills.
On the charge: Spurs guard Patty Mills.  Photo: AP

In the off-season Mills took part in the Spurs' recruitment of superstar free agent LaMarcus Aldridge as he and the 211-centimetre power forward were teammates at Portland Trail Blazers in Mills' early years.

Since Aldridge and veteran big man David West signed on, the Spurs have turned into one of the league's best defensive sides something pivotal to their title hopes. "I think we play a little different to what we have in the past because of the guys we have got in LaMarcus and David," Mills said. "This year we are really hanging our hat on our defence and being able to stop teams, stop players.

"Some years we haven't been able to hang our hat on defence but we are doing a great job defensively and want to keep that as a focus."

Aldridge said Mills was far evolved from the loveable but underdeveloped rookie he knew in Portland.

"He is very confident," Aldridge said. "He has learned a lot being in this system in how to play the game, how to move the ball and I think he is learning where to get his shots. He has just grown overall."

Proud as punch: Australia's 2014 NBA championship winners, Aaron Baynes and Patty Mills

Proud as punch: Australia's 2014 NBA championship winners, Aaron Baynes and Patty Mills Photo: Twitter

After his starring role in the Spurs' 2014 NBA championship, Mills is a respected figure in the Spurs locker room where he is their back-up point guard.

In the eyes of five-time title-winning coach Gregg Popovich, Mills plays a vital role.

"He's one of those indispensable role players or substitutes that makes your team go," Popovich said ahead of the Spurs' win over Milwaukee in early January. "Anybody who goes far in the play-offs has 'X' number of players who energise the team and add something defensively or offensively to a significant degree and he is one of those guys who does that for us.

"Some nights things aren't going that well and the team doesn't have it, but you can count on Patty Mills to come in and give everything."

Mills came into the Boomers' squad in his late teens so the 27-year-old has been a long-time figure at national level but it still catches the Canberra-raised star by surprise that this year is his seventh in the NBA and ninth in America after two years at St Mary's College in California.

"This is my seventh year in the league plus two years in college before that - that's nine years in total and it has flown by," Mills said. "I see myself as someone with a lot of experience. Here in the NBA seven years, college basketball, international basketball - different styles of the game around the world. I feel like I've experienced a lot to learn my own game but also to be able to help others as well. I like to see myself as a veteran who can help younger guys and I think younger guys on this team look to me for that."

Quality recruit: LaMarcus Aldridge has been great for the Spurs.

Quality recruit: LaMarcus Aldridge has been great for the Spurs. Photo: AP

The Spurs went somewhat under the radar in the early months of the season as the Warriors went on their unbeaten start and the Cavaliers showed they would again be contenders.

San Antonio meet both teams in the coming weeks, offering the rest of the league a taste of potential finals match-ups. Mills and the Spurs are planning on a long run in the post-season and as the team continues to work in the talents of Aldridge and West with established stars Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker its expectations are justified.

As for Mills, no one in the NBA will be surprised if he plays a big role in the Spurs' success based on his heroics in 2014. Hearing Mills joking comfortably while in the middle of the Spurs locker room, you get the feeling all that has come before this campaign is just a warm-up for what is to come. "To be honest, I think NBA experience and years trumps everything else," Mills said. "It's unfortunate but when you come from somewhere else it's known that you don't have NBA experience and the NBA is so different to everywhere else so in that sense you need those years.

"I feel like I've been through a lot in those seven years - highs, lows, injuries - and it has helped me get to this point."