As previously rumoured here, the Melbourne Tigers have indeed signed Australian Boomers star and Portland Trail Blazers point guard Patty Mills to play in the National Basketball League for the 2011/12 season.
The signing of Mills is a huge coup for the Tigers and in fact the entire league, as it will increase both the standard and exposure of NBL basketball for as long as he stays put downunder. Mills’ contract will keep him in Melbourne whilst the NBA lockout is in progress.
Rejecting more lucrative offers in Europe must have been a challenging decision for Mills, but clearly he is highly patriotic to Australia and values giving back to the local basketball community.
“Patty Mills is an NBA player in the prime of his career, and one of Australia’s best basketballers,” said Basketball Australia CEO Larry Sengstock. “For him to turn his back on much larger contracts in Europe in order to play here in Australia is an amazing vote of confidence in the iiNet NBL Championship.
“This is one of the most significant signings in NBL history and one which I have no doubt will help us record our third successive year of attendance growth,” Sengstock added. “For fans to be able to watch a player of Mills’ ilk at the peak of their powers is a rare opportunity and one which I am sure plenty of people will take up either in person on via our TV broadcasts.”
How the Tigers will structure their roster with the arrival of Mills will be interesting, but it certainly gives them an explosive backcourt pairing in Mills and Ayinde Ubaka — perhaps one of the best in NBL history.
Mills is already in Australia, preparing for the important Boomers series against the New Zealand Tall Blacks, to be played in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. The series will determine which Oceania team gets through to the 2012 London Olympics.
His first NBL game will be on October 7 in Melbourne, as the Tigers host the Sydney Kings.