Patty Mills calls time on the NBL

Michael DiFabrizio Columnist

By Michael DiFabrizio, Michael DiFabrizio is a Roar Expert

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    The NBL stint of Patrick Mills unexpectedly came to an end last night, with the locked-out Portland Trail Blazer accepting an offer to play in China.

    Three months and nine games after joining the Melbourne Tigers, he announced the news via Twitter.

    “Hey everyone! Just wanted to let you all know that I got an unbelievable opportunity to play in China,” Mills said.

    “Just want to thank all the basketball fans in Australia for their support while I’ve been here. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!”

    Just like that, it was over. The unusual scenario of having a current NBA player in the NBL was no more.

    For the league, the Tigers and fans of both, it was sad news.

    Mills generated interest on the road, lifted the profile of the league and – with initiatives like his “Ambush Army” group of supporters – was active in trying to improve the product.

    His contribution to the game over the past few months deserves praise.

    That said, not all fans were in a grateful mood last night. For some, it was disappointing that Mills didn’t stick around until the end of the NBA lockout, the reason he came here in the first place.

    While such criticism was denounced by many last night, the critics need to be given this: Mills himself, at the press conference announcing his move to the Tigers, spoke as though he’d be sticking around until the lockout was over.

    “You just go with the flow,” he said. “As a Tiger I’m here to the end so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

    “One thing I’ve learnt in the NBA is it’s all about business (and) it’s out of my control. All I can do now is sign with the Tigers.”

    Overall, though, no individual in the NBL has generated the same level of discussion that Patty Mills has in a long, long time. The league needed that.

    Sure, it didn’t last, but had the situation in the States been different he might’ve been lost to the league way sooner anyway. Heck, if it weren’t for the situation in the States he wouldn’t be here at all.

    Even then, it’s hard to begrudge a man accepting a contract reported to be worth around $1 million – especially when that man is facing the prospect of an entire year’s earnings being lost (with the increased likeliness of there being no NBA season).

    Tigers boss Seamus McPeake broke down the numbers talking to the Herald Sun yesterday, and they certainly added up.

    “The (Chinese) offer is more than our salary cap ($1 million per team) and we couldn’t stop him from taking it,” McPeake said. “He wouldn’t make that money here in 10 years.”

    So Mills is gone, but it’s no reason for fans to be angry. A mixture of sad and grateful is a more apt response.

    Now, though, the question turns to where the league stands now that it has lost its star player. This news does make the difficult task of getting the NBL in the headlines even harder. Mills leading the Tigers into the playoffs would’ve been a huge story, too.

    But with the list of contenders running deep, and plenty of upsets occurring, there are enough story-lines for this to remain a compelling season.

    As for the Tigers, they already have a ready-made replacement at point guard in Ayinde Ubaka. Losing Mills will be cause for adjustment, but it’s by no means the end of their season.

    On reflection, the club should have no regrets. The ride was fun while it lasted.

    Michael DiFabrizio
    Michael DiFabrizio

    Michael DiFabrizio is based in Mildura, Victoria. He has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009, leading to appearances on ABC News 24 and in the Age. Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelDiFab.

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • November 21st 2011 @ 9:01am
      Lucan said | November 21st 2011 @ 9:01am | ! Report

      Sucks to see him go.

      Do the Tigers now get on their hands and knees and apologise to Corletto?

      • Columnist

        November 21st 2011 @ 3:03pm
        Michael DiFabrizio said | November 21st 2011 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

        Haha Corletto is looooong gone now. Not sure who the Tigers will pick up. They now have room for a 10-point player, but it can’t be an import, because Mills is Australian. So who does that leave?

    • November 21st 2011 @ 10:32am
      stabpass said | November 21st 2011 @ 10:32am | ! Report

      I have to admit i am not a great basketball fan, but i saw a bit of the game against the wildcats, and IMO he was no standout, but maybe does a lot of stuff i would not notice.

      Good luck to him, the NBA situation is a joke, hope we do not see this replicated in Australian sport, particuarly the AFL.

      • Columnist

        November 21st 2011 @ 3:01pm
        Michael DiFabrizio said | November 21st 2011 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

        Statistically, Mills averaged 18.6 points (equal 1st in league) and 5 assists (4th in league). Plus, he leaves with the Tigers second on the ladder (with an equal win-loss record to first). He did what he was meant to do on the court.

        As for the AFL, it won’t get to that stage. The league and players have put together an interim one-year deal for next year to avoid the cancellation of games.

        • November 22nd 2011 @ 8:02am
          mushi said | November 22nd 2011 @ 8:02am | ! Report

          Also I think the AFL teams are predominantly clubs owned by the fans so it is a different dynamic

      • Columnist

        November 21st 2011 @ 5:06pm
        Michael DiFabrizio said | November 21st 2011 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

        Go easy on stabpass, JVGO. He was making reference to Patty’s performance in one game, he wasn’t saying he can’t play full stop. He even disclosed his true level of interest in the game and conceded Patty might’ve been doing things he didn’t notice. Sounds like an entirely fair comment to me.

    • November 21st 2011 @ 1:47pm
      oikee said | November 21st 2011 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

      Bye bye oz, the big basketball money is in China and America. With 1.5 billion compared to 22 million, not hard to see why.

    • November 21st 2011 @ 1:59pm
      Johnno said | November 21st 2011 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

      Wow and the NBL almost got Andrew Bogut for a while.

    • November 21st 2011 @ 4:10pm
      B.A Sports said | November 21st 2011 @ 4:10pm | ! Report

      Like Patty says he has learn’t, “its a business”. And who could blame him for taking the cash with the situation the way it is.

      Anyone who sees him play for Portland though knows that this guy is a team player.You don’t get many guys who get so few minutes be so supportive of, and energizing for his team mates.

      I am a big Patty Mills fan, I can’t say i will miss him in the NBL, because I hardly saw him play (thank you One HD), but good luck to him in China. It will be an adjustment moving there but he’s a good guy and deserves a pay day.

    • November 22nd 2011 @ 8:41am
      BigAl said | November 22nd 2011 @ 8:41am | ! Report

      ‘This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!’

      I’m a little confused ! – isn’t he already in the NBA – how much money could he be earning playing basketball in China?

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