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Could Mitch Creek's shooting pave his return to NBA soon?
Mitch Creek's return to the NBA isn't happening right now, but he's prepared for the opportunity - if the circumstances are right.
During a recent NBA Straya podcast appearance with Jaymz Clements, Creek confirmed that his NBA out clause would trigger only if a full NBA contract came in.
"Honestly, we haven't really hidden it, but if a full contract comes into play, then we do have an out. It has to be a full contract, it can't be a two-way, can't be 10-day, things like that. If the end of the season comes, a team needs a guy to come in and do what I did last year...
"I'll be on that first flight the first night after the season finishes, to go and help any way I can. Obviously want to keep my foot in the door, and try and stay as available as possible, and stay in the right environment over there."
Creek, who rallied his team against Melbourne United in the debut Throwdown season opener, tallied 28 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and shot 4/5 from downtown, and was the Round 1 MVP leader for Jacob Doole's weekly NBL awards ranking.
Mitch Creek filled the void and willed his team to a win. He set the tone early as the Phoenix built a lead, pushing the tempo and driving hard to the basket at every opportunity. When United made a run late, he iced the game with a pair of huge threes inside the last three minutes.
Three-point shooting has never been an integral part of Creek's arsenal, and it's been the one flaw that's repeatedly reared its head, among doubters who question his fit in a modern NBA where three-point shooting and spacing is almost a must-have checkbox. His shooting was on full display during the Phoenix's win in Round 1, and was a key to the team's win.
It's also possibly the one thing that tips the balance in favour of an NBA deal.
"If [Creek] keeps shooting at 80 percent from the three [point line] he will," Sydney Kings coach, Will Weaver said after his team's win against the Cairns Taipans on Friday. "A guy that is that smart and that tough - good stuff happens to them."
Weaver, who was also part of the Boomers' coaching team during the recent FIBA 2019 World Cup, said Creek's ability to keep improving made him a good NBA prospect.
"He shot the ball well in the Boomers' campaign and he clearly shot well against United. I thought he would have shot the ball better in Long Island, but he keeps working on it and trusting it."
Shooting aside, Creek has shown excellent leadership with the fledgling Phoenix franchise, both on and off the court, a trait that's shown itself in his time with the Minnesota Timberwolves over the recent Summer League as well.
An exclusive behind the scenes video from the Phoenix shows the swingman explaining how learning to set the right kind of screens for teammates, helps the entire team's offence.
"... Learn each other. Learn the intricacies of the offence. Set good screens, and that's going to get our guards open, which entails our bigs then [getting] open. We get easy rolls, easy throw-ins, easy seals...
"Know your role, and be as good as you can, in that role."
Teammate Kyle Adnam also shared how Creek's style of leadership impacts the team.
“Whether that’s with his voice, saying well done mate, something as simple as that, he does a really good job of actually talking to you about different things you’re doing well and different things you can improve on," Adnam said on a recent SEN appearance.
“The best thing about him is his calming influence on the floor. As much as he may be vocal off it, on the floor it’s a very calm influence.
“He will be like, hey we made a mistake, but next play let’s move on, let’s get it done, I know you’re going to make that shot next time, I know you’re going to make that defensive rotation next time."
Creek's potential departure to the NBA could leave a gaping absence on his Phoenix team, but it's something the team welcomes.
"We haven't spoken about it but this bloke can shoot and I want him to shoot," Phoenix coach, Simon Mitchell said after the game. "That's the next level for him. We want him in the NBA.
"A lot was said about whether we would have Mitch this season or [would he be in the NBA] but I was devastated when he didn't make it. We want to send him on the trajectory to realise his dreams and knocking down those shots regularly is the next step so we'll put that work in with him."
Hopefully, the NBA dream will resume soon enough for Mitch Creek, and he'll make a well-deserved return to the journey.