PATRICK Mills will pack in three more NBA trials before judgment day on his basketball career next week.
Then Mills will pack three flags into his bag for Friday's NBA draft.
"I've got the Australian flag, Aboriginal flag and Torres Strait islands flag ready," he said from San Francisco.
Mills, 20, isn't just ready to let the world know who he is, he wants to make sure they all know where he's from.
And, to reinforce that pride, his father, Benny, of Torres Strait islander heritage, and his Aboriginal mother, Yvonne, will be by his side at New York's Madison Square Garden for the 2009 NBA draft.
It could easily have been the AFL draft.
Mills was a national representative at schoolboy level and is related to Melbourne's Aaron Davey and Port Adelaide's Burgoyne brothers, Peter and Shaun.
"I almost followed in their footsteps," he says.
"I think about that every now and then; what that would be like...but no regrets."
Basketball is in his genes, too.
Mills's uncle Danny Morseu was the first indigenous player to represent Australia in basketball.
His parents formed Shadows, a Canberra basketball club aimed at turning the indigenous community to the sport.
Those humble beginnings may now turn Mills into an instant multi-millionaire - a top-30 draft pick is guaranteed a minimum three-year NBA contract valued at $3.3 million.
"Cathy Freeman was my idol," Mills says, recalling images of the athletics champion draped in the Aboriginal and Australian flags.
"I take a lot of pride in my heritage. It motivates me. NBA draft night is about more than just me; about representing family and friends and indigenous and Australian cultures."
Talk is that this year's draft will be crazy, with trades and negotiations bubbling behind the scenes.
Mills has done his best to make sure his fate is not part of a lottery. In the past month, he's covered the US and spent a week at an NBA camp in Italy.
On every trip, in every workout, he has remembered the advice of Australian superstar and Olympic teammate Andrew Bogut, the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NBA draft.
"He's just told me to make every game, every practice, every workout count, don't take anything for granted," Mills said.
"Just to understand that there's always someone watching, so don't let up for one second."
Mills heads for Atlanta today for another trial, Utah on Tuesday and Cleveland Wednesday.
"You get pretty tired and sore," Mills says.
"But you see boys pulling out of workouts, cancelling workouts and there's a week to go. That week feels like a year away.
"I'm still trying to get as many workouts in as I can to try to prove myself to the teams and put myself in the best possible position.
"It helps with the nerves, too, not to think about the draft. I have no control over the process other than working hard on the court.
"I've had good feedback and I definitely think I have what it takes and definitely the right mental attitude - more important than anything, to make that transition."
Mills knows his lifestyle will change if he's drafted into the NBA, particularly in the first round.
"If I do make a team, life will change dramatically, but for someone like me brought up in such a close family, I'm always going to be the same Patty Mills," he says.
Mills states case in Kings' point-guard evaluations
If this was to be one of the last battles royal among point guards, Patrick "Patty" Mills would not be left out.
So Mills called the Kings and asked to be included in Sunday's workout at the team's practice facility.
The Kings have worked out every top point guard available in Thursday's draft. Only Ricky Rubio, who became ill during his visit, did not work out.
Sunday's group included Memphis' Tyreke Evans and Syracuse's Jonny Flynn, both back for a second look. Evans previously worked out alone.
Florida State's Toney Douglas, Florida's Nick Calathes and Davidson star Stephen Curry also were in Sacramento with Mills, the Saint Mary's standout.
Curry and Evans are considered locks to be lottery picks, a group Flynn also could sneak into by Thursday.
Calathes and Douglas also are projected as possible first-round selections.
Mills said he'd been told he would be selected late in the first round or early in the second. The Kings have three picks in the draft: the fourth overall, the 23rd and the 31st.
"I knew who was going to be here, so it was a great opportunity," Mills said. "And if I had that opportunity (I'd) make the most of it and try to put myself in the best possible position."
Mills, no slouch in his own right, wanted a chance to play in the group. He spent two seasons at Saint Mary's in Moraga and was one of the young stars of the 2008 Summer Olympics playing for Australia.
Afterward, Mills felt the workout, his ninth, was productive.
"The type of caliber guys who were here competing today along with Toney, it was great," Mills said. "I think the level of competitiveness and toughness is a level that I'm up there with as well."
The workout highlighted the diversity of available point guards.
Curry (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) might be the best shooter in the draft. He moved to point guard last season after two years as Davidson's shooting guard.
Shooting remains Curry's trademark, but a year as a playmaker has helped shape what he believes he'll be as a pro.
"I definitely see myself as a point guard first," Curry said.
Flynn (6-0, 185) is a speedy player believed to be high on the Kings' list. Mills (6-0, 175) also wants to push tempo.
Calathes (6-5, 185) excels from the outside. He also has a deal to play in Greece next year.
Evans also is 6-5, but at 220 pounds, is 35 pounds heavier than Calathes' listed weight. Like Douglas, he also can play shooting guard. Douglas (6-2, 200) comes with the reputation of being a tough defender.
"Most of all, I feel I can bring toughness (to the Kings)," Douglas said. "Because you can't coach toughness. … I feel like nobody is going to out-tough me. And that's one thing I can control."
Here’s what I don’t get: While you can’t make it five minutes into a Ricky Rubio argument without somebody supporting his case with the concept that he “held his own” against grown men overseas and against Team USA in the Olympics, Patrick Mills gets zero credit for not just holding his own, but putting in serious work against the Redeem Team and other international juggernauts.
In almost every major test he’s faced, Mills has proven himself. As the focal point of each NCAA defense that went against his Saint Mary’s squad this year, the sophomore Mills averaged 18.4 points on 40% from the field and 85% at the line, plus 2.2 steals per game. Mills got the better of Stephen Curry in their NIT matchup, putting up 23 points and 10 dimes in a blowout win. Before that he dropped 27 points in an NIT win over Washington State, and despite missing nine games during the season due to injury, still clocked 10 games of 20-plus points.
Then there’s the FIBA resume. In two games against Team USA last summer (one exhibition, one in the Olympics), Mills was the best player on the court for Australia, and that includes Andrew Bogut. He scored 20 against the Americans in Beijing, giving Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Jason Kidd problems. In his two outings against the U.S., Mills went for a total of 33 points, three assists and three steals. In Rubio’s two games against the U.S. last summer, he had 14 points, six dimes and six steals. Mills also dropped 22 points against Argentina and its NBA-laden roster, and “held his own” against Russia and Lithuania during the Olympic tournament.
And yet, while Rubio stays in the top five of every draft board, Mills is actually slipping. Pegged as a 20-to-25 guy in the first round a couple weeks ago, the latest NBADraft.net mock has him falling into the second round, going after guys like Toney Douglas, Darren Collison and Dionte Christmas.
Why? If this were five years ago, I’d get it: Mills is small (6-foot, 180 pounds), he’s a ‘tweener of a PG/SG, and he plays for a mid-major. Sure, he puts up points, but so did Troy Bell and A.J. Guyton and Steve Logan, and they all played at big-time programs.
But the bad rap for ‘tweeners is supposedly dead. Guys like Randy Foye, Gilbert Arenas, Nate Robinson, Ben Gordon and even Dwyane Wade have dispelled the myth that small guards who aren’t pure PG’s have no place in the League. And with the way the NBA game is going, any team can find space for a guy who is quick, skilled and can put the ball in the basket.
Mills has first-round talent. I really like him for the Hornets at #21 as CP’s backup (the next Jannero Pargo), but I can also see him with Phoenix at #14, Atlanta at #19, and Dallas at #22, among others.
But why are we even talking about teams in that range? For somebody whose international track record is just as (if not more) impressive than Rubio’s, and who has a solid body of college work on top of that, Patty Mills should be higher on everyone’s board. Or perhaps Rubio should be lower.
If you really pay close college attention to college basketball, you knew Patty Mills before the fame. (And "fame" is tongue-in-cheek here; Mills is famous to very disparate niche groups of basketball fans, which we'll get to in a bit.)
In one of his first games at St. Mary's, a small WCC school typically trounced by Gonzaga along with the rest of the WCC, Mills took on nationally ranked Oregon. The Gaels upset the Ducks. But it wasn't just an upset, it was a hello to the world from Mills: 37 points on 10-of-20 shooting and five assists. Mills arrived, and most every intense, mid-major concerned college basketball fan in the United States at least briefly knew why.
Then, for his other group of fans -- those intense enough about the NBA or Olympic basketball or maybe just getting to see Kobe and LeBron and D-Wade play on the same team to tune in to the Beijing tuneup games in the summer of 2008. Before meeting with Spain in the title game in Beijing, the U.S. overwhelmed everybody. Everybody, that is, except Australia, who happened to have a quick little Tony Parker-esque guard by the name of Patrick Mills. Mills scored 13 points off the bench for the Aussies in an August 5 exhibition. Australia lost 87-76, and if that's not a moral victory, there truly is no such thing. Later, in a quarterfinal loss to the U.S. (this one was not as close) Mills scored 20.
By the end of Olympics Mills led Australia in points despite coming off the bench each game, and it was official: Patrick Mills was the real deal. If he could hold his own with Jason Kidd and Chris Paul, he could surely dominate the WCC, right?
Sort of. Mills injured his hand in 2008-09, and returned only for the WCC conference tournament, which, with a loss to Gonzaga in the title game, ended the Gaels' season. Mills didn't get a chance to expand on his work in the summer of 2008. That, to be frank, sucks. But Mills will always have his core fans: people like me, who love college basketball; people who saw him play the U.S. and thought he was dazzling; and Australians, notably indigenous Australians, whom Mills has represented on the Australian Olympics team with pride. (His father was the first ever indigineous Aussie on the Olympics squad; Patrick was the third.) And, if our weird fanboy hunch about Mills is correct, Mills will have another thing: a bright NBA future ahead
definitely a team would pick up Patrick Mills and I bet a lot of rival teams would get surprises when they see how PM schools their point guards.
these guys don't have a problem with basketball, why do you?
25 (55)Portland (from Denver)Patrick Mills 6-1 175 PG St. Mary's (CA)
The Blazers saved Patty Mills from slipping out of the draft. If he could have jumped right after the Olympics, he would have gone much higher. He's super-quick and a great kid, but he's small and a lot of teams don't believe he's a point guard. The Blazers don't really have a roster spot for him, but he may be able to continue to improve overseas.