It hasn’t taken long for Patty Mills to make a big first impression with the Nets.
Mills, who is coming off a historic Tokyo Olympic run that delivered Australia its first Olympic medal, a bronze, in mens’ basketball, is off to a great start with Brooklyn. In fact, he’s in “FIBA Patty” mode.
Through the first four games of the season, the Aussie guard is providing a scoring boost off the bench — 14.5 points on 52.5 percent shooting overall and 64.0 percent from deep — and making an early case for Sixth Man of the Year considerations.
“He’s a winner,” said Nash after the Nets’ 104-90 win over the Wizards. “He plays the right way. He’s experienced. Obviously, he is skilled. But he just brings a great feel to the game with (or) without the ball. And defensively, he makes our team communicate better. He organizes us on both sides of the ball. He brings a lot to the table and he’s a great addition to our team.”
Kevin Durant, who played a big role in recruiting Mills to Brooklyn at the Tokyo Olympics, values the guard’s professionalism and the way he approaches the game; traits that rub off on his teammates.
“Professionalism. (He’s) just a true pro. Through and through. Just how he approaches his craft every day is an inspiring thing to anybody especially when you know the story of where he comes from. Just having that energy around every day is amazing,” said Durant on Mills. “Beating his chest into the crowd, making timely plays underneath the basket, getting steals. Just playing with energy. We’re going to need that from him.”
While Brooklyn has spent the first week of the season experimenting with lineups and rotations, Mills’ production has remained consistent — and fresh — in his new role. Most recently, he delivered a bounce off the bench the Nets were craving against the Wizards Monday night.
The guard finished with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting overall and 5-of-9 from three in 23 minutes. Although he scored 21 points, it was one play in the closing seconds of the first that really served as a catalyst for Brooklyn.
Mills, who has thrived in off-ball situations, ran from the baseline up to the left wing and after receiving the cross-court pass from James Harden, faked the catch-and-shoot, broke the defender’s ankles and drilled a three with 8.6 seconds remaining to put the Nets up 18.
The guard — who ticks to culture — got the Barclays Center crowd of 14,487 on their feet. He believes Brooklyn’s blue-collar mentality approach to the small details — an area Nash has stressed improvement — can rile up the crowd and use that energy to their advantage on the court.
“Just one of those feel-good moments I think,” said Mills on the highlight play. “It’s great energy in the building already. I think we have, from what I experienced already, one of those crowds we can definitely feed off when we need to and when they’re in the game. I think that blue-collar mentality of how we play, it seems like the crowd enjoys (it): Being able to be scrappy, loose balls, 50-50 balls, charges. Those are one of the times I felt good and got the crowd involved.”
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It can sometimes take a player a couple of games to get into a rhythm and carve out a role with their new team. For Mills, that hasn’t been the case.
In his debut, he scored 21 points on a perfect 7-of-7 from three. He followed it up with another sharpshooting performance — 4-of-5 from the field, 3-of-3 from deep for 11 points — and a new NBA record for most consecutive threes without a miss with a new team (10-of-10).
Mills has drilled a total of 16 threes off the bench for Brooklyn. If he hits five threes off the bench Wednesday against Miami — not inconceivable — he’ll have another NBA record with his name on it — the most triples off the bench through the first five games of a season, held by J.J. Redick (20 in 2018-19).
Although Mills struggled in the home-opener loss to Charlotte, he credits a mindset change to his explosive start and finding ways, big or small, to assert himself while the team builds chemistry and continuity. A huge factor in his swift start originates in his approach to the season.
“I understood over my time that it’s a marathon of a season and you can’t knit-pick certain things at every game. For me, take it in chunks but there are some little things you can definitely look at and improve on every game,” Mills said.
“Just try to make an impact on the game somehow whether it is on the defensive or offensive end. I think that has always been something that I have hung my hat on especially offensively. If it is not the night, then go make a play defensively and get after, dive for loose balls, create a charge, make an impact that way.
“I think an all-around type of mentality is the thing that I have tried to have always. I am not too happy with myself when I start to float around and just be out there,” said Mills his approach to making an impact. “That was an adjustment for me personally from last night to tonight.”
It’s as if the Nets are following the lead of Boomers coach Brian Goorjian when faced with a do-or-die situation in that bronze medal game.
“We’re putting the ball in Patty’s hands,” Goorjian told his team. Worked once.
- Nets’ Patty Mills: ‘It’s a marathon of a season’ - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Nets’ Patty Mills signing already paying dividends - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets get glimpse of what they’ll need from Patty Mills moving forward - Ryan Chichester - WFAN
- Kevin Durant, Steve Nash praise Patty Mills’ fast start to the season - Ajayi Browne - USA Today
- PATTY MILLS OFF TO A FAST START WITH BROOKLYN NETS - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets