Andrew Gaze says Patty Mills would be making the wrong decision if he left the Spurs to chase a starting spot at a less-credentialled team.Australia basketball legend Andrew Gaze says Patrick Mills couldn’t be blamed if he leaves star-studded San Antonio for bigger money elsewhere, despite the Spurs entering the NBA play-offs as championship favourites.
And Gaze believes being labelled a ”fat arse” by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has been a major catalyst for his stellar form.
Canberra product Mills is a free agent at the end of the season, and Gaze said he’s in a ”fantastic situation” as he weighs up the toughest decision of his professional career.
The point guard’s stocks on the open market have risen dramatically after a breakout season in which he’s averaging 10.3 points, 2.4 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 19 minutes a game off the bench.
“He’s a free agent and I don’t think anyone’s going to begrudge him the opportunity to go out there and explore the market, and do his very best to take care of himself,” Gaze said.
“There’s no doubt he’s in an outstanding position personally right now, and either way he’s going to be pretty comfortable.
“But if someone provides a godfather offer out there, I don’t think anyone’s going to begrudge him that.”
Gaze, who was part of the Spurs’ championship-winning squad in 1999, believes Mills would be making the wrong decision if he left simply to chase a starting spot at a less-credentialled team.
“If he’s just going there on the promise of greater opportunity elsewhere, I’m not sure that’s in his best interests,” Gaze said.
“I’m not sure he’s going to get a better situation than what he’s in now.
“It’s a balancing act; he’s in a fantastic situation with a great coach, and has found a niche for himself in a system and playing group he looks comfortable in.”
Gaze credited Mills’ better shooting, decision-making and physical fitness as the main reasons for finally earning the faith of coach Gregg Popovich after struggling to get any meaningful court time last season.
Popovich labelled Mills “Fatty Mills”, and spoke publicly last month about how he challenged the 25-year-old to get in better shape this season.
“He was a little fat arse,” Popovich said.
“He had too much junk in the trunk. 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.”
Gaze said Mills’ improved fitness has helped him become sharper and more consistent.
“Not that he was out of shape, but you physically look at him now and he’s clearly in better shape,” Gaze said.
“That’s enabled him to be sharper in a few different areas and his endurance, he’s a bit quicker on defence.
“Real small things at that level can become big things, because the margin between each athlete is so small.”
Three-time NBA championship winner Luc Longley believes Mills’ better game sense and greater desperation in defence have helped him take the next step.
“His shot selection is off the charts, he used to have what I would categorise as ordinary shot selection,” Longley said.
“He’s playing with composure, poise and confidence, the backing of his teammates and he’s playing ‘d’.
“I still believe there is room for loyalty in sport, which is why he’s playing for Australia. He might feel that organisation [Spurs] has groomed him, and stay there.”
The Spurs begin their play-off campaign against Dallas at 3am on Monday AEST.