NBA championship winner Patrick Mills is avoiding the hype of multimillion-dollar offers to focus on basking in glory with his San Antonio Spurs teammates, but admits his goal is to become a starting point guard in the world’s best league.
Mills, a free agent, is preparing to make the biggest decision of his career as he weighs up whether to stay with the Spurs after his starring role in their championship, or consider potential offers of $5 million from rival teams.
The 25-year-old Canberran is still coming to grips with his role in lifting the Spurs to a 4-1 series triumph against the Miami Heat and will be paraded through San Antonio with his teammates on Thursday.
Mills says his only priority is celebrating the win and becoming the first indigenous Australian to win an NBA title.
But his starring role has sparked reports of $6 million contracts and interest from franchises including the New York Knicks after coming to the end of a two-year, $US2.33 million deal with the Spurs.
“People keep asking me [about my future] but I honestly haven’t thought about it,” Mills said.
“I don’t even know how the free agency works, I don’t know when it starts, I’m just trying to soak everything in and live in this moment. I want to make the most of it.
“To have any other thoughts in my mind other than the championship … this is a feeling you don’t want to be distracted from, it’s unbelievable.”
Mills was still in party mode and riding high on “a very scary roller-coaster” on Wednesday.
The NBA is known for its lavish lifestyle and some of the biggest names in world sport. But Mills said the Spurs’ celebrations were low key, with the team inviting family and friends to a post-championship dinner and then re-living the title win at a team meeting two days after the game.
Mills is testing the free agent market for the first time and is poised to earn the biggest deal of his five-season stint in the NBA after finding career-best form in the finals. He scored 17 points in 17 minutes in San Antonio’s game-five victory, including a destructive 14-point burst in the third quarter that all but won the championship.
Teams can’t officially start negotiating with players until July 1. Mills will stay in the US to start organising his future before turning his attention to Australia’s world championship campaign.
It’s likely he will aim to have his future sorted before the world championships in August. The tough choice is the chance for more success with the Spurs or an opportunity at more responsibility at another team.
In the past, Mills’ earning potential and career options have been limited by court time, injuries and frustrating contract situations out of his hands. But he has retained his rights this time and Australian great Shane Heal predicts he will get the biggest payday of his career, with deals potentially worth $6 million.
Mills was the back-up point guard for Spurs star Tony Parker this year, but his goal is to take on more responsibility.
“My goal hasn’t changed, whether it’s my first year or my last year,” he said. “My goal stays the same of wanting to be an NBA point guard. There are a lot of learning experiences you need to go through to get that and I haven’t learnt all that, I’ve still got a long way to go.”
Mills and teammate Aron Baynes are just the third and fourth Australians to win NBA titles, joining Luc Longley (Chicago Bulls) and Andrew Gaze (Spurs).
Mills celebrated with parents Benny and Yvonne and uncle Danny Morseu.
“It wasn’t anything over the top, we all caught up with family and friends. I don’t even know when we get the championship ring,” he said.
“We get on a river barge [on Thursday, Australian time] and celebrate with the whole city, I’m just enjoying the process even though I don’t know how it works.”
Mills wrapped a Torres Strait Island flag around his shoulders as the Spurs lifted the trophy, sending a strong message to millions watching around the world about the pride in his heritage.
“I don’t think I know the answer to what it’s like being the first indigenous Australian [to win an NBA title], other than it feels great,” he said.
“I don’t know when I’ll know, I just know it was a great opportunity to play a game that I love on the biggest stage and represent indigenous people and Australia. That was amazing.
“It’s a very scary roller-coaster you’re on that feels surreal. Your eyes are blurry, then your girlfriend gives you a big hug and kiss … then mum and dad, uncle Danny … nothing beats that feeling. Nothing ever will.”