As the final buzzer sounded at the end of the San Antonio Spurs’ 115-129 loss to the completely dominant Golden State Warriors, most Aussie NBA fans eyes were cast onto one our our own.
Aussie point guard Patrick Mills was unfortunately made to look the fool at several points against the Warriors formidable, Western Conference sweeping line-up – like many before him who suffered the same unfortunate fate.
But the humbling 4-0 sweep also could mean the end for Mills in San Antonio, not through poor form, but rather the opportunity to cash in on years of hard work.
Mills will enter this off season as a free agent point guard, something that will make him a highly sought after commodity according to NBA insiders.
He also is coming off one of the best regular seasons of his career, which included playing in the most games (80) by any Spur during the 2016-17 season, 9.5 points per game (fifth among Spurs players) as well as career highs for minutes, assists and steals per game.
The 2017 Playoffs was a further reminder of just what Mills can do. Filling in for the injured Tony Parker, Mills further established himself as the 35-year-old Frenchman’s heir apparent, averaging 15 points and five assists across the final four games of the Spurs’ successful semi-final series against the Houston Rockets.
But then came the Warriors.
Game one looked set to start a titanic Western Conference Finals, right up until San Antonio star Khawai Leonard went down with an injured ankle.
From then on it was a Warriors beat down, with some saying Mills was losing millions off a potential new deal.
Patty Mills is losing money by the possession. Really struggled in these WCF's.
— Bonta Hill (@BontaHill) May 23, 2017
Jonathon Simmons made money this post-season. Will make 10x his salary next year. Patty Mills will cash in too, but this series has hurt him
— Don Harris (@DonHarris4) May 23, 2017
While Mills didn’t look great against the Warriors, the reality is very few of his Spurs teammates looked any better.
He was on a team missing two of their best players in Leonard and Parker. In the NBA, thats the equivalent of fighting with one hand behind your back.
While some are saying the series has cost Mills millions, they forget he’s been a proven commodity in one of the best coached teams in the NBA.
Even back in 2014 NBA Finals, Mills scored a playoff career-high 17 points, including 14 points in the third quarter of game five to help lead the Spurs over a LeBron James-led Miami Heat and clinch the NBA title.
But now the question is, where does he go and why? Do you go for cash? The shot at a title? The chance to be the face of a franchise?
But if Mills wants a long-lasting NBA legacy, returning to the Spurs might be his best chance.
With Tony Parker’s potentially missing up to eight months after undergoing surgery to repair his ruptured left quadriceps tendon and fellow back court veteran Manu Ginobili potentially retiring this off season, why leave one of the best coaches and revered organisations in the NBA?
They also have made the NBA Playoffs for an astonishing 20 consecutive years, winning five championships along the way.
To put that into perspective, the next nearest active streak is the Memphis Grizzlies with seven consecutive years in the Playoffs.
San Antonio is a team that when healthy can take it to anyone in the NBA and Mills can be an integral part to their evolution, the question now is, will he be?