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The 2014 injury that altered Patty Mills’ career

If not for his shoulder, the Australian may have headed to the Eastern Conference following his role in the 2014 Championship.

San Antonio Spurs Championship Celebration Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

Patty Mills is the sole surviving player from the Spurs last NBA title. The 2014 Championship brought a lot of attention to his three-point shooting, his connectivity with the bench players, and the spark he brought to the second unit.

It was common knowledge at the time that Mills was heading into the summer a free agent and his demand was increasing. The New York Knicks reportedly wanted to offer Mills $3.2M, more than double what he was making in San Antonio.

What was unknown at the time was that Patty had suffered a shoulder injury, had been playing hurt, and was going to miss the beginning of the next season to recover from surgery.

“I haven’t been through free-agency before, having this injury changes everything again,” Mills told Fairfax Media (via Sydney Morning Herald). “I have no idea how it works, but I’m guessing it will affect [my next deal]. But it’s out of my hands. It is what it is. We’ve got to make the most of the situation and move on.”

As a result, the Spurs offered the Aussie guard a 3-year/$13M contract. Paired with the understanding that he would miss much of the next season, Patty committed to the team who was committing to him

“You think nothing can deflate you [after winning a championship]. I had to find a way to process the injury news and what’s going to happen. It’s not until now that it’s sinking in,” Mills told the Sydney Morning Herald. “It’s going to be a brutal recovery process. I’ll go straight into surgery, but I’m told the next four to six weeks I won’t be able to do anything, and it will be brutal.”

Mills returned to play early on December 28, 2014. He increased his scoring each of the next four seasons and became the Spurs’ spiritual leader. Probably no other player exemplifies the humanitarian leadership of the Spurs’ culture more than Mills, and that is saying a lot considering the franchise and all they do both globally and locally.

Three years later, when the gloves came off for the 2017 NBA free agency and fans began to clamor to determine what would happen to Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Gordon Hayward, and Andre Iguodala, Patty Mills was the first name on the ticker tape announcing his 4-year/$48M contract which has all but ensured Mills to stay with the Spurs throughout his best years.

This year, Patty has shown that the best may yet to have come - he has gone “FIBA Patty,” his Australian self, and has career high scoring. He continues to be the spark off the bench (and has saved the Spurs’ butts in a couple of games) and brings his excitement and leadership to a team that has long since seen the exit of the Big 3 (as well as what was considered to be the next generation) and helped to usher in the vital youth movement.

Over that time, he has put his heart and soul, and lot of his own money, into humanitarian causes in his native Australia, Black Lives Matter, and locally to support businesses and family health.

This is the final year of Patty’s contract. It is in the Spurs’ best interest to sign Patty to friendly contract that will see the conclusion of his career in a silver & black (or Fiesta-colored) jersey.

Whether his injury can be seen as a good or bad incident is left for each to determine. In the long run, the Spurs have benefited. I would like to hope Patty Mills feels he has benefited.

Only time will tell what the future holds for the player Sean Elliott lovingly refers to as “The Tasmanian Devil,” but if Mills keeps playing with his current level of ferocity, the Spurs may have competition when free agency opens up this summer.

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