In a lot of ways, it’s hard to believe that San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills is only 25 years old. He’s been such a reliable, ubiquitous presence on the ha-ha blog scene for so long, while making his way as a towel-waving reserve on the Spurs bench, that he just feels like the sort of crafty veteran that only recently had to be talked out of losing his flip phone.
What you forget is that there is still room to grow, for even four or five more years. Mills has made a huge jump as San Antonio’s backup scoring guard this season, putting up starting quality stats along the way. He’s averaging 19.1 points for every 36 minutes he plays, while doing fantastic work in the paint and behind the arc (nearly 41 percent on the year), leading the league-leading Spurs’ bench unit.
Why the change, from decidedly below average (and not always guaranteed minutes) to a top of the line sparkplug? Apparently Mills decided to drop a few plugs in the months following San Antonio’s Game 7 NBA Finals loss to the Miami Heat, a series that saw Patty play just under 14 minutes of spot duty, spread out over two games.
That’s coach Gregg Popovich’s take, at least. From Wednesday’s meet with the media after practice:
Pop, as always, succinct when asked why Patty Mills didn't play more last year: "He was a little fat ass."
— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) March 26, 2014
Dan McCarney reported last fall that Mills hasn’t actually lost much weight, just re-shifted it with a healthier lifestyle. He was down to seven percent body fat last October, a number that’s surely dropped since then after 71 games and over 1300 regular season minutes (nearly 400 more than he played in his previous two seasons combined). Mills has always been a high volume three-point shooter, and though he still only gets to the free throw line once every 13 years or so, his Tony Parker-like game inside the paint has given the Spurs a killer option off of the pine.
The Spurs are in a good place right now after having won a 2013-14 NBA-best 14 games in a row, and while the team’s upcoming schedule is rather tough (it includes trips to play the Pacers, Thunder, Mavericks, and Rockets, home games against Memphis and Golden State), the team’s three game lead over the second-place Thunder in the West seems like a safe one.
And don’t expect Mills to be firing back at Coach Pop any time soon. After all, on Wednesday, Popovich also offered this:
“Ghosts are scared of me, like everybody else.”
If Gregg Popovich called Shawn Bradley a “little fat ass,” Shawn would probably start believing it.
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