Patty Mills Takes D-League by Storm, Makes Case for NBA Call-Up

Brodie Stephens@@BrodieJStephensContributor IJanuary 4, 2010

BEIJING - AUGUST 20:  Patrick Mills #5 of Australia drives to the basket over Chris Paul #13 of the United States during the men's basketball quarterfinal game at the Olympic Basketball Gymnasium during Day 12 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 20, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

When Duke University and USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski sings a player’s praises, the basketball world listens.

In his 28 years of coaching at Duke University, Krzyzewski's tutelage has played a primary role in molding a plethora of young aspirants into legitimate NBA players.

Coach K knows an NBA player when he sees one.

"He's a great guard.  He'll be an NBA guard.  I'm very, very impressed.  He really has great quickness.  And I love him defensively.  I've been a defensive coach my whole life and there aren't very many people who stay with the guard, like right on him, when he has the ball, and if he's beaten, he doesn't retreat, he continues to play the play.”

Patrick Mills, a 6'0", 185-pound Indigenous Australian point guard, had just scored 20 points while picking up three steals and two assists with zero turnovers against Krzyzewski’s U.S. team at the Beijing Olympics.

What made Mills’ performance particularly intoxicating to all who witnessed it (aside from the fact that he had just turned 20), was that it came against Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Jason Kidd. 

While Mills was already on the radar of NBA scouts due to his outstanding play in his freshman season at St. Mary’s College, proving his mettle against the best point guards in the world turned more than a few heads.

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"He's good," said Chris Paul after the game.

"Man, he's fast.  I read something that says he's faster than me.  They're probably right.  He can move."

Unfortunately for the young Australian, it’s much harder to move with crutches.

After breaking the fifth metatarsal in his foot on the first day of Trailblazers’ summer league practice, Mills was forced to miss training camp and the beginning of his lifelong dream after being drafted by Portland in the second round of the 2009 NBA draft.

Mills was signed to a contract despite his injury and, after successful rehabilitation from surgery, was assigned to the NBA Development League on Dec. 29, 2009.

In his first game in the NBA Development League, Mills again turned heads. Mills erupted for 38 points and 12 assists, hitting 7-of-10 three-pointers along the way.  The Idaho Stampede, his adopted team, cruised to victory. 

His second game as a professional was even more impressive.  Mills scored 22 points on an efficient 8-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-5 three-pointers.  More importantly, with his team trailing by 12 points to start the fourth quarter, Mills carried his team to a one-point victory in the final stanza by scoring 13 of his 22 points including the game-winning layup.

In two games for the Stampede, Mills is averaging 30 points per game while shooting 57 percent from the field, 73 percent from behind the three-point line, and 88 percent on free throws.  He is also collecting 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game while averaging 7.5 assists.

With the Blazers’ recent wicked rash of injuries and Steve Blake ruled out indefinitely with pneumonia, if Mills continues his dominant play, a call-up to run with the big boys shouldn’t be too far away.

"We want to look to get him back," Nate McMillan said after hearing of Mills' impressive D-League initiation.

After Mills’ second straight strong game, the promising young Aussie's phone may ring a little earlier than anyone expected.

“He looked fantastic and that’s nice to see,” Trailblazers general manager Kevin Pritchard said on Saturday after seeing Mills in action.

It sounds like Patrick Mills is impressing the right people.

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