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What Kyrie Irving's anti-vaxx stance means for Patty Mills

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Adam Howard new author
Roar Rookie
15th October, 2021
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The recent controversy over Kyrie Irving, star point guard for the Brooklyn Nets, and his stance on vaccination has not only the basketball world talking but also the wider community. So where does it leave Patty Mills?

The decision to prevent Irving from playing looks like a big blow to the title aspirations of the New Yorkers who just last week were the favourites according to some betting agencies.

But let’s avoid the pricklier parts of the issue for now and look closer to home, as we consider how the Irving drama affects Australia’s own Mills.

Recruited to the Nets in the off season from the San Antonio Spurs, where he had spent the majority of his professional career, it was generally thought Mills would be a great back up for Irving.

Now that everything is up in the air and with Irving looking likely to miss most of the season, it appears that Mills’s role will change. How exactly it will change is uncertain at the moment but there are a few likely scenarios.

Patty Mills

Patty Mills. (Photo by Herve Bellanger/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

At 33 years of age, one might’ve had thoughts of the Nets being a comfortable move for the veteran where he could take less of a role on the court as his three superstar teammates in Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant, carried the team to the NBA Championship.

Not that Mills himself would’ve seen his move as the beginning of a retirement tour, it just seemed logical that the two superstar guards and the versatile Joe Harris would be eating up a lot of the minutes.

Mills might now be called upon to start, or will at the very least play more minutes than initially expected. One thing is for sure, Mills won’t shirk any role asked of him and still has plenty to offer and has the experience of winning it all as he did with the Spurs in 2014.

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We saw in the Tokyo Olympics that Patty is still capable of shouldering the lion’s share of the responsibility of being the leader and main offensive threat. He averaged 32.6 minutes per game and even scored 42 points in the bronze medal game against the Slovenians, who were led by the phenomenal Luka Dončić.

This past NBA season saw Mills play the most minutes per game of his career other than in 2017-18 when he started 36 games. In fact, since 2017-18 he has only started three regular season games. So a move to a starting role for the Nets would be a change of routine but for an experienced player such as Mills who is in some of the best form of his career, not one that is beyond him.

At point guard, the Nets had Irving, Mills, Bruce Brown and Jevon Carter as the players with NBA experience in that position.

With Irving now out and Brown and Carter only entering their fourth seasons, Mills appears as the most ready-to-go point guard option. Of course, the Nets could play Harden at the point, which he’s done before in Houston, and move Harris to shooting guard, where he’s also played before, and this would mean moving Durant to his previously predominant small forward role.

Basically, it would mean reconfiguring their small ball lineup philosophy to a more traditional one.

In the preseason, Mills has not started at all. Harden and he both sat the first outing against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Since then, Harden has been partnered with Brown, Carter and Harris in the backcourt. Minutes-wise Mills has played around the same as Carter and Brown, if not a little more.

You can’t gauge too much from preseason games but it’s possible that Nash likes the idea of Mills leading the second unit, which makes sense.

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With Harden resting or if the starters are struggling, it’s good to have an experienced player who can steady the ship or provide a boost and Mills can and has made a career of that.

The Nets’ will open the 2021-22 NBA season versus the reigning champion, Milwaukee Bucks. We will have a better idea then how Patty Mills will be utilised by Nash. Every Aussie basketball fan, no matter which team they support, would love to see Mills playing an important part in another Championship run.

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