Nets point guard Patty Mills and Australian Olympic medalist, who signed with the team as a free agent in August, takes a shot at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: Can you imagine what it would mean to Brooklyn to win an NBA title?
A: After being here for only a few months now and talking to people from here, that have grown up here, it would mean the world to them, and that’s what I’m starting to really uncover in myself is what it means to represent these people. I have my own dreams, and I envision it on a regular basis of winning a championship here and how that would feel. It would really be another level of passion and excitement for this place.
Q: You have visualized it?
A: Oh mate, on a regular basis. That’s how I operate, being able to visualize these things and open my mind to it, it helps me get up every day and go about my craft how I do, because it really gets me going.
Q: Tell me what you see when you visualize it.
A: I see holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy with my teammates. I see us having a parade throughout Brooklyn, that consists of going over the Brooklyn Bridge. … These are all things that are just in my own little fantasy world that helps me get up and be a professional and want to win. It’s part of my make-up of who I am. I love winning and I think visualizing all these types of things helps me go about it that way.
Q: Describe James Harden’s beard.
A: (Chuckle) I love it, to be honest. I’ve had a fairly lengthy beard over my time, so I’m actually impressed how he can go with that thing for this long.
Q: If I was a visitor from Mars scouting James Harden, what would I learn about him?
A: That you can’t read his lips when he tried to talk to you (chuckle) because of his beard. It’s so loud in the arena, sometimes he’s speaking with his mouth but you can’t see his mouth ’cause his beard’s so long.
Q: How about his game?
A: His ability to use his first quick step, and how he’s able to get by people with his ballhandling. You wouldn’t look at him and say, “Oh he’s got a first quick step,” but he does … deceptive.
Q: A visitor from Mars watching Kyrie Irving?
A: For me it would be his body movements, his agility. It’s so smooth that … people with Mars probably can connect with it — at times it’s like how is that humanly possible the way that he moves and gets around people?
Q: Kevin Durant?
A: How freakishly skilled he is for how tall and long he is. The way that he moves and skill it’s like he does that in a body that’s my height — exactly the same things, just a million times better.
Q: What have you learned about him as a person?
A: I would say how genuinely excited he gets for the success of his teammates. That’s something that I don’t think I would have noticed from playing against him for so long. But he really empowers his teammates in a lot of different ways. Kudos to his leadership and how far his leadership has come to get to this point.
Q: Describe the night he ruptured his Achilles in The Finals with the Warriors in 2019
A: I remember a devastating loss for the entire league. I remember feeling just as devastated as a fan at that point. It was a deflating type of feeling I’d say.
Q: What have you learned about Kyrie as a person?
A: He’s an interesting person. He’s someone that you’d want to sit down and talk to and get to know and see where his mind is at. And you figure you’d have very interesting conversations about a whole lot of things.
Q: What kind of guy is Harden?
A: I would say this about him: I obviously love reggae music, so when I’m pumping that in the weight room and he walks in the weight room, I was very surprised to see that he actually likes that music as well every now and again. To see him dancing to some reggae was very surprising to me, but I love it. That made me say that he loves good vibes (chuckle).
Q: Can the Brooklyn Nets win a championship without Kyrie?
A: That’s a loaded question, mate. But look, I think where we’re at now, I think we can win a championship with who we have. But those odds increase even more with Kyrie, yeah.
Q: What do you like best about this team?
A: I love that everyone is on the same page with understanding that there’s a championship to be won here, and I love that everyone throughout the organization — not only the team, the front office, the staff, the videos, the strength and conditioning coaches — everyone’s on the same page here of being able to do whatever it takes to win. And I think that time of energy that runs through the organization. … Everyone feeds off of that energy. That’s not easy to come by.
Q: Describe the rivalry with the Knicks.
A: I absolutely love it. It was my first time experiencing it. It means so much to the city. It’s things like that, when I feel that type of passion and that type of love for the game, I think that’s when I play my best basketball. That’s why I love the rivalry.
Q: Whatever comes to mind: GM Sean Marks.
A: I love him, mate. I go back with him a long way, obviously playing with him in Portland, getting to know him and his family. Very knowledgeable, very smart obviously from a basketball standpoint, and even more so as a general manager.
Q: Cam Thomas.
A: An absolute athlete. Very skilled, confident … massive legs (laugh) that give him a lot of power. I don’t have very much meat on my legs, it’s pretty much skin and bone, which Is why I notice those things.
Q: Brett Brown.
A: My favorite basketball coach ever. He coached me on the Australian team for the 2012 Olympics, had him in San Antonio as well. But he’s just someone that I’ve been able to just really connect with in basketball and outside of basketball, and still to this day being able to use him as a sounding board for my own personal career.
Q: What drives you?
A: The driving force for me is being able to inspire and empower people. And I feel like, from where I come from, I represent aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, that’s indigenous Australian. And for me to be able to inspire those people, and I think that the more that I’ve been able to do that on this platform, I realize that I’ve become a role model for all indigenous people around the world, which has been very eye-opening for me.
So I take a lot of pride in how I carry myself and how I represent myself because I know that I have the opportunity to impact a lot of people, not only in Australia, but around the world. The driving force there is wanting other kids of my background and my culture to also achieve dreams and things that they’ve always dreamed about because it is very, very hard coming from a minority and a place that has a lot of struggle, I guess … whether in sport or not, being able to give hope in that way.
Q: What is the biggest obstacle or adversity you had to overcome?
A: I come from such a small place and having to deal with racism growing up as a kid and dealing with Australian history and my family’s history, that in itself is such a massive thing to overcome to live a healthy life, let alone talk about anything to do with sports. … I experienced racism in sport throughout my childhood growing up, which is why now throughout my foundation we created a campaign called We Got You. I think to be able to set the standard of integrity and encourage actions to achieve an ultimate goal of a world that no one is singled out because of their color or their skin or their origin or their ethnicity.
Q: How old were you when you first encountered racism, and how did it affect you?
A: Grade 1 when I first encountered it, and not to relive the whole thing, but for me it really eye-opened a situation that made me realize that I am different. It was at school, walking into a classroom, and I got uppercutted punched in the belly and took the wind out of me.
Q: Did it make you more determined to overcome it?
A: I think I overcame it by the help of my parents. My mom was a part of the Stolen Generation. I remember to this day my mom telling me always take the high road and walk away from all of those incidences, and kind of put your mind to showing that within whatever sport it might be, and for me it was sport, that was the outlet, that’s where I could go and run my fastest, play my best, play football, play basketball and kind of get people back by just trying to beat them within the sporting field, and I think that helped me to be the competitor that I am today.
Q: If you could pick the brain of any guard in NBA history, who would it be?
A: I will say Steve Nash (laugh).
Q: Why him?
A: There’s so many things that I’ve been able to learn from him over the years. From an individual basis, not only basketball-specific stuff, but also functional body movement type of things. And now that he’s a head coach and being a player for him, I even get to do that on another level type of thing.
But I would have said the same answer even if I had never met the guy before. I think the balance here of basketball-specific things that I’ve been able to learn from him as well as the longevity of taking care of your body and finding efficient movement ways to move around the basketball court given my size and my height and try to find little tricks in the bag to help me be a very solid NBA player.
Q: If you could go 1-on-1 against any NBA player?
A: Allen Iverson. I think I’d really want to get into my bag of 1-on-1 and have the opportunity to see what I can do against him on the offensive end, and then buckle down on defense to see how many stops I can get on him.
Q: Describe your on-court mentality.
A: I would say very focused, very determined. I play with a lot of passion, and I think that’s where my mentality comes from, being able to tap into all of the things that’s meaningful to where I’m playing at the moment. Obviously, playing for Australia is a whole other level, but the more that I’m in Brooklyn and I’m out in the community and out in the streets and meeting new people from here, I’m able to tap into those things that brings meaning that’s more than just the game. In that sense, it’s a very balanced type of approach on the court which brings a whole lot of passion and heart and grit, I guess. So the mentality is very determined, I’d say.
Q: How would you compare winning the 2014 NBA championship Spurs with winning the Boomers’ first Olympic medal, a Bronze in 2020?
A: I don’t think you can compare, to be honest. They’re very different in their own right. It’s a process going through that NBA championship, the year going up to that, losing to Miami the first go-around and then coming back and getting ’em again.
The people that we had on that team. And then you look at the Boomers team and how many decades and years and Olympic games that we’ve gone through that we just haven’t gotten over the hump. I can’t compare ’em, I just know that the feeling of winning an NBA championship and winning an Olympic medal, it makes you hungry for more. And I always ask this question: Do you love winning or do you hate losing? And after winning a championship and Olympic medal, there’s no doubt that I absolutely love winning and will do whatever it takes to win.
Q: What was it like bringing the Lawrence O’Brien Trophy back to Australia?
A: That was unreal, because to see the reception and reaction from people in Australia that have never experienced the Lawrence O’Brien Trophy before. For us to see how much that meant to Australia, that was very special. And we took it all the way back to the Torres Strait Islands where I’m from, and to have it sit at the house where my grandfather used to sit on his chair and all of that … so to place it in the same place as my first basketball hoop where I grew up playing basketball, bare feet, that gravel road was pretty special.
Q: Whatever comes to your mind: Tim Duncan.
A: Footwork … fundamentals.
Q: Manu Ginobili.
A: True professional and friend.
Q: Tony Parker.
Q: Kawhi Leonard.
A: The Claw.
Q: What makes Gregg Popovich a great coach?
A: I would say his ability to get his players to see the big picture, and understanding that there’s a big world out there, and I think that balance is really what makes him a great coach. You learn so much from him outside of the basketball world that ends up helping you with basketball and with your teammates in the locker room and on the court. Being with him for 10 years, in a sense I grew up as an early adult through my time with him.
Q: Did it motivate you when he called you Fatty Mills?
A: (Chuckle) I don’t know if it motivates me, I was already motivated enough. I think that was just a little joke on the side that kind of went around the world (laugh).
Q: But you did reduce your body fat, right?
A: That little joke came after the fact. That motivation came from me just really wanting to be a part of the San Antonio Spurs organization and team, and I needed to do something extreme to be noticed and to show how serious I was about wanting to be here … going to the extreme of getting into arguably the best shape of my career. … I shaved my head and shaved my beard, and that helped the perception of this new guy that rocks up to training camp the next year ready for business.
Q: You still will not dunk, is that right?
A: Well, I don’t know if I have the choice. So when you say I still will not dunk, it’s because I can’t (laugh). I haven’t dunked in a game.
Q: Could you dunk if you had to in a game?
A: After all the running and miles that I have on my legs, I think those aspirations are long gone.
Q: What is the criticism that bothered you the most?
A: I just go about my craft like I know how to. I don’t let a lot of criticism bother me, to be honest.
Q: What fascinates you about the Brooklyn culture?
A: Obviously Brooklyn was very appealing to me and my wife for many reasons … something that we connected with from an outside point of view is its culture that’s based around music and fashion and cafes and restaurants and food and art and particularly street art, and how a lot of the messaging and meaning within that street, what it means and what it brings. And then finally coming here and experiencing it for ourselves, seeing how diverse the place is.
You hear different languages that are being spoken when you walk by people. It made for a very welcoming place. It was a seamless transition for us because of the culture. It’s everything that we enjoy, everything that we like. I’d like to say thank you for welcoming a couple of strangers into the Brooklyn community. I’m honored to hopefully winning an NBA championship for this place. I think the only thing is the cold that I’m still getting used to (chuckle).
Q: Describe your fascination with coffee shops.
A: Coffee’s been a big part of our life for a long time, it’s a big part of the Australian theme being out and about coming from Australia. But within the NBA environment, I think that’s been kind of a hobby. We travel around the country so much, staying in different hotels, so by the time you get to the hotel, it’s been a little bit of an outlet to be able to leave the hotel, go for a walk, find a nice coffee shop, sit down, kind of relax, take a load off. You enjoy kind of trying to find and unlock done secret hidden gems not only in the city that you play but on the road as well.
Q: Favorite coffee shop?
A: I’m going to say Blue Stone Lane. It’s an Australian coffee shop.
Q: What was it like going to the White House and meeting President Obama?
A: That’s definitely a career highlight.
Q: Describe your wife Alyssa.
A: Very beautiful … very heartwarming, loving. … She played basketball in college [Saint Mary’s College], so she rebounds for me to this day. She’s all about fashion, she has her own swimwear label called Strait the Label. She’s my best friend, we do absolutely everything together. And of course with our goldendoodle Harvey, who’s 8 years old.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: [Indigenous Australian icon] Eddie Mabo, Bob Marley, Nelson Mandela.
Q: What would you ask Mandela?
A: I would ask him how he can continue to find ways to bring unity to the world.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “Remember the Titans.”
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Denzel Washington.
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Julia Roberts.
Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?
A: Bob Marley. As a living one right now, Alicia Keys.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Anything that is freshly caught by myself, anything in the ocean.
Q: Adjectives that would describe Patty Mills off the court?
A: Good vibes only … juice … energy.
Q: What are you most proud of about your career?
A: I would say I’m most proud of the way that I’ve been able to still say true to who I am and my cultural identity, and how that in itself has inspired my people back home to be able to gain from hope from it and use that. … It’s like I’m living evidence that these things can happen if you stick your mind to it and work hard and all those things. I always say that you gotta see it to believe of it, and I’m the living proof for a lot of young indigenous Australian boys and girls back home.
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