NBA news: Patty Mills is giving fans an inside peek at what happened behind the scenes of his departure in August 2021. In a recent Q&A with NBA.com, he spoke up about his choice to depart as he makes his first trip to San Antonio wearing an opponent uniform.
Mills spent a decade in San Antonio and was a member of the squad that won the title in 2014 before joining the Brooklyn Nets last summer.
He had the opportunity to enjoy the Beautiful Game with the Big Three before guiding the next generation of Spurs after the icons retired.
Off the court, he became a fan favorite in San Antonio, and he tells the website that the local connection means a lot to him.
In the Q&A, he states that he expects to be emotional upon his return to San Antonio, but that he will remain focused on producing for his new club. Mills also discusses his mental state in the hours preceding up to the evacuation.
Career changes are usually nerve-racking, but imagine making the choice while participating in the Olympics, then adding the element of telling your employer, the legendary coach Gregg Popovich, that you’re leaving.
Mills told ESPN that he made the choice after Australia defeated Argentina in the Olympics’ quarterfinal round. He ate supper, settled in, gathered his thoughts, and decided on Brooklyn. It was roughly 4 a.m. in Tokyo at the time.
NBA News: How Mills felt on leaving Spurs to join Brooklyn
He realized he had to notify Pop before word spread in the United States. He didn’t feel comfortable cold-calling Pop given the circumstances.
“But I simply texted [Popovich] and told him how I was feeling and how I thought it was unusual and really difficult timing,” he recalls. “But I simply wanted to let him know what I was thinking, presuming I wasn’t going to tell him in person.”
Mills didn’t expect to hear back for a while, but the coach did so within three minutes. “It was one of those situations where you sent the text, had mixed feelings about sending the text in the first place, and then you put your phone on the bedside table,” he says. “Just as you’re about to fall asleep, your phone vibrates, and you get a text from him.”
Pop informed Mills that he loved him and understood, according to the former Spurs player. Popovich and Patty were able to meet in person because they were both at the Olympics. The successful conclusion to his Spurs career gave him the confidence to pack his bags for New York, but he admits that leaving wasn’t easy.
When he departed, San Antonio fans felt the same way, and they’ll wear their emotions on their sleeves again Friday night when the Spurs visit Mills and his new squad. Fans have arranged welcome home parties, and the Spurs are organising special video montages for Mills and LaMarcus Aldridge.