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san antonio – spurs rising star point guard dejounte murray dropped his eighth triple-double (23 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists) on wednesday, followed by a request from the local crowd before patty friday back from mills to at&t center.
“It better be loud,” Murray said. “Saint Anthony better come out and show himself and show his appreciation for him.”
mills returns to the at&t center on friday for the first time wearing an opposition uniform when san antonio hosts the brooklyn nets (8:30 ET, nba league pass), along with ex- spurs center lamarcus aldridge.
mills, 33, played 10 seasons and 85 of 90 career playoff games for the spurs as a key backup and veteran torchbearer of the franchise’s vaunted culture following the retirements of tim duncan, tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Mills helped San Antonio capture its last championship in 2014 and ranks second in 3-pointers made in franchise history (1,220) behind Ginobili (1,495).
“He was here a long time. she has won here,” said murray. “He loves this city very much. he loves the fans. he was always involving the fans in everything he did, whether it was playing, him in the community or giving us the story of his life. so I would like everyone to show his appreciation for him.”
Murray called Mills his “favorite teammate,” due to “his energy off the court,” adding that “even his energy through texting can be felt in Patty Mills.”
that is also evident in a phone call.
as brooklyn met to board a flight thursday afternoon to san antonio, mills, who led the australian national team to its first olympic medal in august, spent a few minutes with nba.com discussing the heartbreak and chaos of his spurs. Departure, informing coach Gregg Popovich of the decision via text message, his new team and his pending return to downtown AT&T in this Q&A.
Editor’s Note: The following 1-on-1 conversation has been condensed and edited.
nba.com: you’re about to catch this flight to san antonio, man, and you know the tribute video is coming when you hit the ground friday at the at&t center. What emotions do you think you will feel at that moment?
mills: I don’t know, man. there’s obviously a bit of emotion in there from a decade of experiences. I think being in brooklyn now, I’ve been so immersed in this new team and obviously I’m playing my role and doing what I have to do here. but I think I’m going to try to be in the moment, stay in the experience, absorb it all at once.
What was your mindset last summer as you headed into free agency knowing you could leave San Antonio?
I like to say that it was extraordinary circumstances knowing that free agency was going to fall at the same time as the Olympics. Even though you knew going out, there really wasn’t a perfect way to prepare for something like that. I did what I thought I had to do by doing my own research and trying to get as much information as possible because I knew going to these training camps would have my head down and I guess in the trenches as we tried to get our first Olympic medal . so, knowing that free agency was going to come right in the middle, it was definitely extraordinary circumstances. I look back and think that in a perfect world I would have had all the necessary conversations that I would have liked to have before making my decision. but really, it just wasn’t [possible]. The decision was made after the quarterfinal match against Argentina progressed to the semifinal against the United States. So I think extraordinary circumstances definitely sum up my free agency.
Was it difficult to leave?
oh yes. I think that’s what made the emotions run even higher, I guess because of the extraordinary circumstances because I made a career-changing decision that was very difficult and very difficult. I think it was difficult because I was leaving a place and, more importantly, people who helped me grow in some way. there were a lot of emotions that made it difficult for me to leave, but [also] knowing at the same time that this was the right decision for me, my wife and my family.
coach pop is the kind of person who always seems to say exactly what you need to hear to make you feel better when making a difficult decision like that. How were your conversations with him during that time?
[laughs]. well, I’m talking about all the conversations [she needed to have]. in an ideal world, going through free agency, I would have had all the conversations I would have [wanted to] have. but he was the first person he obviously needed to tell before anyone else. in an ideal world i would have loved to have conversations with timmy and manu, although i had conversations with him before, and other people within the organization, people who made an impact during my time there in san antonio. but i remember coming back from the argentinian quarterfinal match to the olympic village in tokyo. we had just finished the quarterfinals. big win.
It was pretty late at night, right?
it will probably be around 1am. m. when I dine in the Olympic village, and here I am about to hit the fork in the road to make this decision. then, it was very late at night. By the time I made my decision, it was after 3 a.m. m., I think it was almost 4 a.m. m., so obviously it was too late to make a phone call and say, “this is my decision.” this is what I want to do. so, before leaving, ee. uu. time zone was about to wake up. then, the news was going to get out. but i texted (popovich) and let her know what i was feeling and how i thought it was a weird and very difficult time. but I just wanted to let him know what I wanted to do, assuming he wasn’t going to do it (I could catch up with him the next day in person).
To my surprise, he answered inside, I think it was like three minutes or so before I got a text. It was one of those things where you send the text, you have mixed feelings about sending the text in the first place, then you put your phone on the nightstand. Suddenly, before you can fall asleep, the phone vibrates and you get a text from him. So, I think we finally caught up. we played them in the semifinal game, and caught up after the game, and then again after the medal games. I guess he was the one who had the words to describe this is what I remember him saying, and how he feels. but he [he told me] that he loves me and understands me.
How did you feel?
I think that was the most important thing for me to be able to, I guess, close the chapter with confidence, knowing that I have him [in my corner]. obviously, all the love is still there, and he understands that. we became close during that time [in san antonio]. hearing that from him [made the decision feel better]. It’s one of the hardest things in the NBA. when you grow up to get close to people, it becomes hard to leave.
What is it like to play now with this new team? You’ve played an all-star team before in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard. but this seems different with guys like kevin durant, kyrie irving and james harden.
yes, it’s different. there are new challenges, and I think it has required a lot of commitment and immersion in this new team and this new culture to be able to find my role and [I am] giving it my all to be honest. I’m enjoying it, mate. I really am. it’s part of my growth, my development and being true to who I am at the end of the day. i think my leadership values from what i learned in san antonio have really strengthened my leadership so that i can continue to be a part of my core values on this nets team.
You’re very immersed in the San Antonio community and, knowing you, you’re trying to do the same in Brooklyn. How has that been for you?
That’s amazing, man. my wife and i have really enjoyed things off the court in brooklyn and what the borough has to offer. and yes, little by little we are taking full advantage of the community and being members of the brooklyn community in different ways. having a dog helps us to go out and meet new people just to have a better understanding of how the municipality works. the people there have been perfect and [we have] felt very welcome. it is a crucible. there are a lot of people from a lot of different cultures around brooklyn, and i think they all liked my culture, which made me feel very welcome. I definitely appreciate it.
what’s it like playing with lamarcus aldridge again? you’ve been his teammate in portland, san antonio and now brooklyn. it’s like you can’t get rid of it.
[laughs] yes, it’s true. I think we have a unique situation for both of us. It’s probably pretty weird to be able to play [together] in portland, in san antonio and now in brooklyn. We’ve both been there and we understand each other’s ups and downs, I guess, throughout our careers, and how we can help each other help a team that’s vying for an NBA championship. i have really enjoyed being with him here in brooklyn. again, he has the challenges of it. but they are all challenges that he welcomes as a competitor trying to build his game and, again, compete for championships.
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miguel c. wright is a senior writer for nba.com. you can email him here, find his archive here, and follow him on twitter.
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