LONG ISLAND - Mitch Creek drove headlines yesterday, when it was announced he was signing with the South East Melbourne Phoenix for their inaugural NBL season in 2019-20.
News of Creek’s contract with the budding NBL franchise is certainly a boost for them and the league, but it does not guarantee Creek will be playing in the NBL next season.
Creek, who is currently playing with the Long Island Nets in the NBA G League, has an NBA out clause in his Phoenix contract and he intends to use it, should an opportunity arise.
In an interview with The Pick and Roll, Creek confirmed that obtaining an NBA contract remains his sole focus. His pact with the NBL’s newest club doesn’t change his approach. Rather, the Phoenix provides a perfect back up plan, should dreams of an NBA call-up go unanswered.
Below is a full transcript of our chat with Mitch Creek from Long Island.
Q: What is the feeling knowing that the announcement has been made, and what is the thought process behind the Phoenix deal?
For me, it’s a secondary pathway to the NBA. If, for whatever reason, I get through this season and things don’t pan out through the G League and from Summer League next year, then it’s kind of like, ‘all right, I’ve done this and given it a really good crack. My next look is to play back home and continue to get better and showcase what I can do.’
For me, it’s not about going home and giving up on a dream or anything like that. It’s more about solidifying this dream as a reality and saying that I now have two ways to get there.
I’m going to bust my arse every single day to get everything out of this [G League] experience. I’m not going to stop until I get it. Like I said, if it doesn’t work out, then we get to go back home to a great environment and a great learning experience with a new coach. Their goal is exactly the same as mine, and that is to get me to the NBA.
They are telling me that they don’t want me for the whole season. They are like ‘we want you for two weeks, six weeks, three months, four months, five months and then you get picked up.’
That’s what they want, because then they can say that they made someone an NBA player from South East Melbourne Phoenix.
Q: You’ve clearly mapped out all the options for the next 12 months. If the NBA deal doesn’t come, I’m assuming you’ll head back to Summer League and try to prove yourself again?
Yes, definitely. The plan is to finish the G League season, win a championship here, continue to play at a high level and then go home.
Go home, have a little bit of time off. Go on a nice holiday and put my feet up for a bit. Go to Melbourne to work out with Simon and the team there. Start putting together a squad just in case. Then go to Summer League, play there, see what happens, maybe do NBA training camp again and then from there, it will be a case of seeing what we have.
Q: So, no more G League after this season?
Right now, it’s not on the cards. I feel like this year, if we get a couple of 10-days and things go really well, then it is something we will weigh up. But as of right now, there have been no 10-days or two-way contract offers so, realistically, it is about making a good decision about where my career is going to take me.
Q: Signing with South East Melbourne signals an end of your allegiance with the Adelaide 36ers. There has been much discussion on your relationship with the 36ers of late. Does this move signal that it is time to move on?
It’s a business. Things happen. They made choices and I made choices. I have now moved on from that. A lot of people are trying to hash it up or bring it up. Realistically, I don’t care. I am not mad at the club. I love, and I want this to be in the article.
I absolutely adore every single person that came through the door. Every person who came to every camp. Came to our games. Like every single fan and supporter. Every teammate, coach or staff member that helped me along the way. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart and I will always have respect for them.
Things happened and we move on. I’m a man and I am a professional. I’m not going to dwell on the past. I am going to go out there and play hard like I do every single night. I give my best every single night and regardless of what happened, I am not going to play harder because of whatever off-court reason. That means I wouldn’t be myself. I am going to bust my arse. I am going to go home, be on a new team in my home state. A couple hours from home, and the old man is going to come down. My best mates are going to be at all the games. It’s going to be a great experience.
Q: The G League showcase is coming up in Las Vegas soon. What is the mindset approaching that event, knowing that this will be the biggest chance yet to show off?
It’s obviously a big event we have coming up. You work so hard to build comradery and to build a resilient team who is going to go out and work hard.
If we can emulate our best games at the showcase, then it gives everyone jobs. European scouts. Overseas scouts. International scouts from Australia and Germany. Every NBA team is going to be there as well. People don’t realise all the time that you need to be a team that goes out there and plays together.
If you go out there and try be that individual star, nobody wants that. Teams already have stars on their team. They have the $20 million a year players. We are going in and trying to fill roles. The showcase, for me, is like an advanced Summer League.
Summer League is normally very selfish, but this showcase is going to give our team a chance to put on display our unselfishness and show how good of a teammate we can all be. How we can help a full team come together.
Creek’s NBA ambitions remain his immediate focus. He has acclimatised to life in America with the Long Island Nets, and is just trying to be the same player he as always been. He hopes, rightfully, that this will be enough to catch the attention of NBA franchises and generate his opportunity at the highest level.
Signing with the Phoenix is his backup plan, and guess what? That is perfectly fine. Creek has the security from a financial and professional perspective, should he fall short in America.
The Phoenix now own the NBL playing rights to one of Australia’s best basketballers. Whether it happens on 2019 or not, the next time Creek steps foot onto an NBL floor, it will be as a member of the Phoenix.