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Patty Mills: ‘Distractions’ killed Brooklyn Nets title hopes; Ben Simmons in ‘good place’

Brooklyn Nets v Sacramento Kings Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Patty Mills is in Atlanta now, having been traded by the Nets to the Rockets in a salary dump in July then sent first to the Thunder, then the Hawks in another off-season deal. After two tumultuous seasons in Brooklyn, the former NBA champion believes he knows what killed the Nets title chances. In a word it was “distractions,” as he told Kristian Winfield of the Daily News after the Hawks loss to the Knicks Friday night.

“I think there were obviously a lot of things other than basketball,” Mills told the Daily News. “And it’s hard to be in a place where you’re competing for a championship, and I’ve been there before where you’ve gotta try to limit the distractions as much as you can, no matter if you’re competing for a championship, if you’ve got an X on your back, there are gonna be distractions. It’s just how you deal with them.

“And we didn’t do the best of jobs with being able to deal with distractions, so that’s what it is at the end of the day.”

Mills who won a title with the Spurs in 2014 after getting to the Finals the year before, didn’t name names, but he didn’t really have to.

Kevin Durant asked for a trade in both the summer of 2022 and at the deadline in 2023. Kyrie Irving went through a series of what certainly could be called distractions in his last two years with Brooklyn, whether it was unexcused absences, fines or suspensions related to his refusal to get vaccinated or his publicizing a video filled with antisemitic tropes. His decision not to get vaxxed even led to a violent demonstration outside Barclays Center before the home opener in 2021. Not to mention James Harden’s own trade request and surly exit.

“I think any place you go, the ideal scenario is it’s about basketball and you keep it about basketball, and you figure out how to move forward on the basketball court,” Mills told Winfield. “So when you look back at it there, there were definitely a lot of times where there were distractions that got the better of us and that definitely took a toll.”

Mills, in fact, was on the opposite side of Irving’s anti-vaccine stance, having taken to the airwaves in his native Australia to get the nation’s indigenous population protected against COVID-19.

However, by the time last summer rolled around, the Nets had given up on chasing a title and instead traded both Mills and Joe Harris — combined salary $26 million — in salary dumps. Brooklyn sent Mills to Houston for one of the two second round picks the Nets had acquired in the four-team KD trade at the February deadline. Mills said he was not surprised when he was moved.

“I got a phone call. I knew it was coming,” he told The News. “I sensed how everything was going, so it wasn’t the biggest surprise. You just kind of understand the profession of this business and how to deal with it. No hard feelings of course. You just look at new opportunities.”

Mills who is close to his fellow Aussie Ben Simmons thinks the Nets will ultimately be fine.

“You look down not only from Ben but the potential there to be able to come together as a group and do something is there, especially the caliber of what everyone knows that Ben can get to,” Mills said. “Obviously the question mark is if and when he gets there, what the team looks like so, from what I’ve seen from Ben for a short time and speaking with him on the side, he’s in a good place physically and mentally, so I’ll keep an eye on those boys.”

Mills also told Winfield that he intends to make one more run on the international stage, at the Paris Olympics next year. Simmons has said repeatedly that he too plans to be in the City of Lights in July 2024.