PATTY Mills will likely get no better opportunity to prove his worth as an NBA free agent with a potentially season-ending knee injury bringing down his San Antonio teammate and starting guard Tony Parker.
Mills is the main back-up to Parker, who was carried off the court in the final quarter of the Spurs’ playoff-levelling win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.
Kawhi Leonard had 34 points, eight assists and seven rebounds to help the Spurs overcome the loss of Parker in the 121-96 victory.
Mills had seven points and three rebounds in his 20 minutes on court. San Antonio officials have said 16-year veteran Parker will undergo an MRI, but Spurs coach Gregg Popovich admitted after the game that “it’s not good.” Teammate Manu Ginobili said Parker was still hurting and unable to put any weight on his left leg after the game.
“It’s hard to see him limping and hurting now,” Ginobili said. “You kind of know that we’re not going to see him anytime soon. “So, that’s a tough blow. We’ll see, we don’t know.” The bigger picture for Mills, if Parker is ruled out, is more game time and another chance to shine before the conclusion of the 2016-17 season. The 28-year-old has been touted to earn anywhere between $US10 million ($A13.5m) and $18 million ($A24.3m) a season on what would likely be at least a four-year deal for the unrestricted free agent.
That dwarfs his current annual salary of $US3.6 million. Any deal over $US12 million a season should have him positioned as Australia’s all-time highest paid basketballer; Andrew Bogut last earning $US36 million over three seasons with Golden State.
Potential fits if Mills doesn’t stay with the Spurs include Minnesota and Philadelphia, the latter coached by former Boomers mentor Brett Brown and with Australian Ben Simmons on their roster.
Parker’s predicament is not good.
His left leg appeared to go limp as he rose to attempt a short jumper in the paint over Houston’s Patrick Beverley, grabbing his left knee immediately upon landing.
The 34-year-old eventually attempted to limp off the court, but had to be carried off by teammates.
Mills is not sure who will start at point guard if Parker is unable to play in game three of the Western Conference semi-final series in Houston, but says the team is prepared to fill the void if needed.
“ … I can tell you one thing, that we’re all ready,” Mills said. “We’re all ready to step up and make an impact.”
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