Aussies in NBA: Mills talks Kobe, All-Star break and guarding Curry
Patty Mills came into Saturday's game with confidence, and why not? He's had a great shooting record in the month, finishing with a season-high 22 points against Orlando, and 16 points against Dallas on 15-21 shooting that included 5-6 from long range.
Mills however had an unlucky night against the Lakers. He got some great open shots and did well in the first quarter, hitting 2 threes. The Spurs guard struggled from that point on, finishing the game with 13 points, shooting 5 of 15.
After the game I sat down with Patty to talk about Kobe, his All-Star Weekend plans & the art of guarding Stephen Curry.
It was the last time in Kobe's amazing career that he would play in San Antonio. Having had so many amazing moments over here in the AT&T Center, he mentioned post-game that he couldn't pick one memory because there were just too many.
"This is one of the rare places where I can say there is not one single memory. There have been so many good ones, some great ones, some horrible ones. There have been so many of them.”
That night being Kobe's last game in San Antonio, it seemed natural to ask about Mills' fondest Kobe memory.
Patty responded with a recollection from his days as a Gael back in St Mary's College, back when he suffered a broken hand, and got the opportunity to meet Kobe up close at a game.
"That was actually after I played him in the Beijing Olympics," Patty recalls. "That was when I first met [Kobe] there, and that was me as a college kid. I remember there was a time during the Olympics where I got knocked to the floor and he was the closest one to me. Before any of my team mates came over he was the one to pick me up off the floor and gave me a wack on the backside."
It's not surprising that Patty remembers the moment with vivid clarity.
"I have a photo of the moment too that someone captured, that was cool. Then going back to college the next year and having him still remember me and knowing who I was and being able to catch up, was pretty impressive."
Kobe Bryant struggled early in that final game against the Spurs but got hot in the 4th, finishing with 25 points & 4 assists as the Lakers went under, 102-106. As he left the arena, the Spurs fans chanted his name as he waved goodbye for the last time.
Kobe was filled with mixed emotions after the game. "It felt good man, I am just used to being here so many times, it's just weird that this is the last time, it's strange man, it's strange."
One place that Kobe will return to however, is another NBA All-Star Weekend - this time in Toronto. Bryant was the leading vote-getter with 1,891,614 votes. This nomination will be his 18th appearance and 16th start as an NBA All-Star, the most in NBA history.
On the other hand, MVP candidate Stephen Curry was selected once more for the All-Star 3-point contest this season. One has to wonder, how hard is it to guard a player like that, when viewed from an NBA defender's perspective? I put the question to Patty, who replied without hesitation.
"Steph's tough. It takes more than one, two or three; it takes the whole team to guard him every time."
When asked about who he thought was the hardest defensive cover in the NBA, he put his vote in a former all-round MVP who powered gun Phoenix Suns during Mike D'Antoni's Seven Seconds or Less era - Steve Nash.
"I'll always say, Steve Nash in his prime," Mills replied. "That was early on in my career, but he could do it all. Ball-handling, he could shoot the ball, he was a tough cover every time."
The Boomers' All-Star break
Patty Mills will be giving the All-Star Weekend a miss. When asked about what he had planned with the Aussie NBA guys, it sounded just as good.
"Yeah, we'll be heading to San Diego actually. All the Aussie boys, just to get together obviously. Rio's coming up, should be fun to get in and just hang out," Mills laughed.
"Nothing major, just hanging out with each other and get a good feed. I mean, we see each other when we play, but we don't really have time to talk much."
It also sounds like a friendly game or two of 3-on-3 basketball is going to be out of the equation.
"We're planning to do anything but basketball," Patty commented. "It's probably the best thing, we can just chill out. I'm really looking forward to it."