Patty Mills blows up in D-League debut

Patty Mills Boomers

Patty Mills didn’t waste any time in announcing that he is on the scene. In his typically spectacular, yet unassuming way, Mills came off the bench for the Idaho Stampede in his first game in five months after recovering from a foot injury. He then proceeded to destroy the Reno Bighorns with 38 points, including 7/10 from deep to go along with 12 assists, three steals, three rebounds and only one turnover in 36 minutes.

The Stampede also got a huge 30 points and 12 rebounds from the returned Anthony Tolliver, in what must have made coach Robert MacKinnon hope that he won’t lose either of the players back to the Portland Trail Blazers. Throw in 19 points and nine rebounds from Milton Ambres and it all amounted to a 123-109 victory for the Stampede over the Bighorns.

Now, back to Patty. I’ve been blowing his trumpet for a while now and boy, did he back up my talk. His speed has always been unquestioned and he showed that in this game, despite coming back from the very type of injury that would inhibit it. He’d already shown that same quickness on the highest stage, leaving Chris Paul and Deron Williams befuddled during international play for the Boomers against Team USA, so this was just a confirmation that he hadn’t lost it.

His shooting. At St Mary’s he had already shown himself to be a knock-out shooter with some huge performances in important games, so this was no surprise from that perspective either. He’s also a heady ball distributor, so the 12 assists was a welcome display of what he can do in that respect. What was a surprise was the fact that he put all of this together so quickly after coming back from the injury to his fifth metatarsal. That is a testament both to his toughness and hard work, as well as the competency of the Blazers medical staff.

How does this fit into the grand scheme of things? Well hopefully many Blazers fans are starting to realise what I’d said all along, that Patty will be a fine injection into the lineup down the track as a long-term solution at the point guard position. The Blazers have placed faith in him, by keeping him on the squad in training camp when they could have signed an immediate contributor like Ime Udoka, so they know what he has to offer in terms of potential.

The other wildcard in this situation is the continuing ailment woes of the Blazers squad. The latest casualty is Steve Blake, in what must be giving the medical insurance company nightmares. Blake has contracted pneumonia — tough break, mate. There has to be a slight chance that the Blazers will pull Mills into the squad if Blake is likely to miss considerable time with the illness.

Currently, the point guard ranks have been reduced to Andre Miller and Jerryd Bayless, along with the ability of Brandon Roy to slide across. So they are not in dire straits by any means, however there has to be the chance that the Blazers will look to bring Mills up for a couple of games to fill a roster slot and possibly get some spot minutes of the bench in a blow out. Either way, the long-term view has to be bright. A point guard tandem of Mills and Bayless is increasingly looking like an exciting proposition for Blazers fans.

Bayless has speed, athleticism, ability to get to the rim seemingly at will and a daily-improving skill at reading defences and making the right pass. Mills has even faster speed on a less muscular body, deadly outside shooting and a poised passing game. Once the Blake and Miller eras are over in Portland and Bayless and Mills are ready to lead this team, look out. That is one amazingly speedy duo there. Bayless has already shown that he can be a solid threat playing off the ball, so in spurts the two of them could be played together in the backcourt to give opposing defences fits with their speed.

It is only early days, of course. I won’t get any more excited than I already have, as things can change, impressions can fade. However it’s a more than solid debut for Mills in the D-League (as was always going to be the case with the pace and free-flowing nature of the league) and we’ll be watching on with keen interest as his next game comes up. Just a reminder that all games are free via the D-League site.

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