You don't have to go very far down the list of former San Antonio Spurs to find Patty Mills when debating fan favorites. The 6-foot-2 Atlanta Hawks guard quickly won San Antonians over with his towel-waving enthusiasm from the moment he signed in March of 2012. Two seasons later, he proved an integral part in capturing the franchise's fifth title.
His 17 points in the clinching Game 5 victory vs. the two-time defending champion Miami Heat marked the high point of an NBA career that's now in its 15th year. He hit five of eight 3-point attempts in a 104-87 victory that capped one of the greatest team performances in league history. The Silver and Black beat LeBron James and company by an average of 18 points per game and are now known for the “Beautiful Game” in basketball annals.
Thursday night's Spurs-Hawks game marked the third time Mills returned to the Alamo City as a visitor.
ClutchPoints talked exclusively with the 35-year-old Australian at the Frost Bank Center about that 2014 championship as well as the Spurs' current superstar, Victor Wembanyama.
ClutchPoints: Is just stepping in this arena and being back in this city forever different for you?
Patty Mills: “I understand what you're saying. I don't think it's a different feeling, it's the same feeling I've always had coming in here no matter if I have a Spurs jersey or not. This is definitely a home place for me and a place that I felt very comfortable for so long. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears have been put into this arena but this is actually my first time since leaving that we had shoot-around here. So, walking in here, empty, quiet, there was definitely some tingling feelings about this place, for sure. When you come in here by yourself and you're looking around, memories start coming back, reminiscing. You see the banner up there and, obviously, the jerseys, and you kind of reflect on just how much was put in over the course of my ten years here and that's why I think it'll always be a home place for me.
CP: Speaking of the 2014 banner, even though you're still grinding and you've got business at hand every night, I'm wondering how often that 2014 title still crosses your mind.
Mills: Oh, constantly. I probably don't do a good enough job on reflecting out loud than I probably should because the more that I experience and the more that my career and my journey goes on, both on the court and off the court, I realize just how special that time was when we won that championship. The people that we had in the locker room. The comradery that we had, the bond all showed out on the court in the way we played. People talk about a beautiful game to watch. It was a beautiful game to play and be a part of. And the feelings that occurred because of those little interactions with each other and made for one lasting memory, for sure.
CP: One of the things we do in media is look at great teams throughout the years and we analyze which teams maybe don't get their due. I'm wondering if players do that. When you get in circles, do you guys say, ‘You know, that '14 team was pretty special in the annals.'?
Mills: Look, I think that we were always underdogs, at least had that mentality. We didn't care what was talked about outside of our locker room here and what we had. I think that's what made us so strong as a unit and I don't think that's changed. Whatever is said out there about that team, I think we know inside what we had and how effective and impactful it was for all of us. It is what it is. That's the things that you can take with you forever; know what you had.
As if #Spurs fans couldn't love Patty Mills anymore…
Asked Patty his initial thoughts on #VictorWembanyama …
"…Hopefully there will be more banners hanging up in the rafters because of him…"
Full interview, including talk about the 2014 team later pic.twitter.com/uBcfx9qqlj
— Hector Ledesma (@HectorLedesmaTV) November 30, 2023
CP: What are your early thoughts on Victor Wembanyama?
Mills: What he's been able to do on the court is one thing. The impressive thing for me is what he's been able to do just for the city, the organization. You can definitely feel the city come alive and how much attention be brings to the city. It feels like this place is in a good place for the growth and the future of the San Antonio Spurs. You can only imagine the amount of detailed work that is going into him on the floor for him to develop his game and the ways that he can. He's going to be an exciting person to watch, how his game develops. Hopefully, there will be more banners hanging up in the rafters because of him. Looking up at the 2014 one (banner), knowing that's almost ten years ago since that one went up, I think it's due for another one from him.