After falling to the United States and being ousted from the 2012 London Olympics, San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown, also head coach of Australia, caught up with Ross Lewis of the Western Australian after the game on Wednesday and discussed why he thinks his star Australian guard Patty Mills will have a bigger impact in San Antonio with the Spurs this coming season.
“I think he is and more importantly I think Pop (Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich) thinks he is (ready for bigger role),” Brown said.
“When you watch him grab a game and have 39 points (against Great Britain) when we’re down 15 against the host nation about to bumped out of the tournament (it’s impressive).
Brown also spoke of some of the off-season preparation Mills put in, in order to have such a good Olympic run.
“His level of commitment is tremendous. He dropped weight. He wasn’t overweight to begin with but his skin folds and fitness level went to a higher level. We thought it would increase his speed and pace and enable him to pick up the ball full court.
“I think he had a great tournament, I think he is learning how to be a point-guard and a leader.
One last interesting note from the interview, was that Brown states Spurs current point guard Tony Parker seems relieved to know he’ll have a reliable back-up in Mills next season.
“I feel like he can contribute at a higher level in San Antonio after really only three months with us last year. To come back for a full season next year I know he is looking to that and I know Parker is looking forward to giving him that opportunity.”
With Mills displaying a great run in London, one has to wonder what will happen in terms of minutes to the other Spurs guards Gary Neal, Cory Joseph, and rookie-to-be Nando De Colo?
Last season, though it isn’t his natural position, Neal was asked to take on minutes at backup point guard on occasion. He never fully looked comfortable grasping the position, which was why Mills was brought in late in the season. If Mills can do essentially what Neal does, shoot lights out from the outside, plus Mills has the advantage of running the floor; Mills’ minutes and role could force a more diminished role for Neal.
Joseph had a great summer in Las Vegas in the Summer League, as even he might have to wait behind Mills. De Colo can also play both backup point guard and shooting guard, but his play in the Olympics wasn’t exactly too enticing and it might be a sign that he’ll be given the usual “Spurs” rookie treatment in his first season.
In the regular season, I don’t think having all of these guards is a bad thing. It gives head coach Gregg Popovich a lot of versatility to use an assortment of lineups. And with Parker and Manu Ginobili aging, plus playing in the Olympics, it gives the Spurs the luxury of being able to rest their key guards without having to take unlikely losses in the process.
The playoffs however will be interesting to see who actually runs the backup point guard role, and who will be a major factor in the Spurs’ next playoff run should they qualify for a slot.