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NBA FINALS

Spurs' Patty Mills won't throw in the towel on supporting role

The guard, who has averaged 3.1 minutes in the playoffs, sees his contributions as one of support for teammates while staying connected in the games.

June 11, 2013|By Shandel Richardson

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SAN ANTONIO — Spurs guard Patty Mills has heard all the jokes.

The Internet makes it almost impossible to avoid them. He's aware some call him M.L. Carr, Mark Madsen or other NBA players known for their antics on the bench instead of production on the court.

And Mills has no problem being the towel-waving 12th man during the NBA Finals. Actually, he is enjoying the experience.

"They're great guys and I've gotten to know them on a personal basis," Mills said. "It's genuine support. The other reason is it kind of keeps me connected, it keeps me engaged in the game. Mainly, it is just for support. I'm another mouth in the timeouts to just kind of pump them up."

Mills, who has averaged 3.1 minutes in the playoffs, never expected this to become his role after a strong off-season playing for the Australian national team in the Olympics. When the fourth-year player out of St. Mary's (Calif.) was unable to crack the everyday rotation, he found other ways to stay involved.

Enter the towel, which has become an inspiration to teammates. Mills often waves it after a big play. He's always the first to greet teammates when they approach the bench after a timeout or at the end of the quarter.

"It's big, especially for a guy like Patty Mills who just had a great summer in the Olympics," Spurs guard Gary Neal said. "He was able to put his personal feelings aside, especially about playing time and just be happy cheering for the team. Patty is a great guy. That just shows his character. He probably expected his role to be bigger. It didn't turn out that way. He's been a professional and that's huge."

Mills has made the most of his unexpected fame. He's become a fan favorite because of his energy on the bench. With his popularity increasing, he began thinking of ways for it to benefit others. So he started selling towels to raise money for charities in the San Antonio area.

"With social media and Twitter and stuff, it's kind of blown up a little bit," Mills said. "We've done some charity work to raise money here in San Antonio and that's taken off. At the end of the day, it's just showing support and being a great teammate."

To 3 or not to 3?

Heat center Chris Bosh said he finds himself in a cat-and-mouse game with the Spurs' defense when it comes to his ability to shoot three-pointers.

"With this team, it seems like that's what they want me to do," he said of the Spurs' defense. "They want me to shoot threes. I could tell by looking at the film.

"It's a little mind game. I know what they're doing."

Bosh said video review made him wise to the Spurs' approach.

"Nobody was closing out to me, and I'm like, 'OK, if nobody's closing out to me, that means they want me to shoot it,' " he said at Tuesday morning's shootaround.

Before Tuesday night's game, Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra downplayed the three-point issue.

"We need him to be very versatile," he said. "He needs to do a lot of things for us. That's where probably people evaluate him incorrectly, because he does so many things.

"The corner three will still be a part of the game. But that just depends on the spacing and what happens during the course of the game."

LeBron's choice

LeBron James, asked pregame what resonated more with him, his block of Tiago Splitter's dunk in Game 2 or his "R.I.P." dunk over Boston Celtics guard Jason Terry during the regular season, said, "The block." Why? "Defensive side of the floor." ...

Spoelstra downplayed having to travel Monday and play Tuesday, even though there are two-day breaks in the series during non-travel periods. "I think once you start playing," he said, "you would rather play every other day. Our guys would rather not have that extra day to think about it."

srichardson@tribune.com

Ira Winderman contributed to this report.

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