Updates from Saturday, July 12
The team officially announced Mills' deal on their website on Saturday:
The San Antonio Spurs today announced that they have re-signed guard Patty Mills. Per club policy details of the contract were not announced.
A day after news of a shoulder injury threatened to depress Patty Mills' once-burgeoning market, the free-agent guard has landed the long-term deal he desired.
Mills and the Spurs agreed on a three-year contract Wednesday afternoon to keep the explosive backup in San Antonio. Buck Harvey of the San Antonio News Express first reported the news:
ESPN's Marc Stein reports the financial terms of the deal:
Mills, 25, averaged 10.2 points and 1.8 assists last season while shooting 42.5 percent from three-point range. Forced to play in China during the 2011 lockout and nearly out of the NBA, Mills' two-plus seasons in San Antonio have proved to be a godsend. He has emerged as a scoring spark plug off the bench and works as Tony Parker's primary backup.
He also broke out in the NBA Finals against Miami, scoring 31 points combined in Games 4 and 5 as the Spurs closed out their fifth championship. Many expected him to parlay his moment on the game's biggest stage into a free-agent bidding war. Marc Berman of the New York Post reported last month that the Knicks were planning to target Mills and that the Aussie would be open to a move to Madison Square Garden.
We'll never know whether those rumors were legitimate.
Late Tuesday, Chris Dutton of the The Canberra Times in Australia reported via The Sunday Morning Herald that Mills' exit physical in San Antonio revealed a torn rotator cuff. He is expected to undergo surgery in the coming days, and the timetable for his return is fluid. Dutton's report indicates "up to" a seven-month absence, while Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports cited sources indicating a March return was more likely.
With players like Ben Gordon, Shaun Livingston and Jodie Meeks signing in recent days for deals well above their expected market value, a healthy Mills might have expected a salary above the mid-level exception. The injury instead instantly dwindled his number of suitors. Teams are not typically keen on handing out high-salaried deals to players who can't contribute until the trade deadline—especially ones with only one season of above-replacement-level play.
Luckily, Mills and the Spurs already had something in the works. Wojnarowski noted the Spurs were still pushing for a reunion, and the two sides worked all day Wednesday to hash out an amenable deal.
Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford have cultivated a culture based on loyalty and continuity in San Antonio, so it's of little surprise the Spurs were still willing to negotiate a long-term contract. Popovich has also been complimentary of Mills' work ethic, highlighting how much has changed for the young guard in a year.
"He had too much junk in the trunk," Popovich told reporters in March. "His decision making wasn’t great, and he wasn’t in great shape. He changed his entire body. He came back svelte and cut and understood you have to make better decisions, point-guard type decisions. He did all those things better and he earned it. He’s been real important to us, obviously.”
Re-signing Mills ensures almost the entirety of San Antonio's championship core will return next season. Boris Diaw is also an unrestricted free agent, and his market is expected to be strong after a stellar Finals performance. His representation is said to be seeking a two-year deal worth between $18-20 million, per Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News.
Should he get an offer in that range, the Spurs are highly unlikely to match. They already have something of a contingency plan in place after drafting Kyle Anderson, who brings many of the same skills as Diaw to the table. Keeping the Frenchman is still a priority, but so is maintaining flexibility with Kawhi Leonard due a contract extension between now and October.
The Spurs may also look for a temporary Mills replacement. Cory Joseph was excised from the rotation in the playoffs and hasn't developed as shooter in a way that makes defenses respect him. It will be interesting to see how the Spurs choose to attack the rest of the offseason given they know more about Mills' injury than anyone.
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