Not much went right for the Nets in their season opener, but imported reserve guard Patty Mills at least couldn’t miss from long distance.
Mills connected on all seven of his 3-point attempts in the Nets’ 23-point loss Tuesday in Milwaukee, tying a franchise record for the most 3s made in a game off the bench and matching the NBA mark for most made in a player’s debut with a new team.
“Any more facts in there? With black socks on, maybe?” Mills joked after practice Thursday in Brooklyn.
Mills, who was signed to a two-year deal worth $12 million in August, also laughed and replied “definitely not” when asked if seven 3s should be expected regularly from him. But the 13-year veteran’s offensive contributions clearly will remain important as a complement to stars Kevin Durant and James Harden, at least as long as Kyrie Irving remains away from the team due to COVID-19 vaccination noncompliance.
The 33-year-old Mills is one of several new players Nets coach Steve Nash is attempting to mesh into his rotation — also including veteran forwards Paul Millsap, James Johnson and, essentially, returning big man LaMarcus Aldridge, who appeared in just five games for Brooklyn last season before abruptly retiring due to a heart condition. The latter trio combined for just two points against Milwaukee.
“It’s not going to be exactly the same,” Nash said before the Nets departed for Philadelphia for Friday’s game against the 76ers. “[Irving] is an incredible player, but we can still play excellent offensive basketball and be a high-powered offense. I think it’s still gonna take time.”
Mills, who played the previous 10 seasons for the Spurs, wasted little time making an impact with his new team with 21 points and zero turnovers in 29 minutes. It was quite a turnaround from a preseason in which he shot just 2-for-12 from 3-point range and 30 percent overall from the field (6-for-20) following a busy summer that included his participation for Team Australia at the Tokyo Olympics.
“I think it’s just the understanding of being a professional athlete and playing for your home country with as much passion and pride as you have to do it. It does take up a big part of the year, playing basketball almost year-round,” Mills said. “So understanding the outcome from a professional athlete standpoint of how to look out for your body, so that it’s at a peak level when you need it to be.”
Mills’ former national squad teammate, Ben Simmons, is expected to sit out his second straight game for the Sixers following a one-game suspension in their opener for conduct detrimental to the team.
Simmons, who requested a trade over the summer, received back treatment and did not participate in a scheduled individual workout Thursday. He’s “currently not ready to play” Friday, according to The Athletic. Simmons didn’t represent his country at the Olympics, and Mills said he hasn’t spoken with him recently.
“As a teammate, as a fellow countryman, I look at him — although he hasn’t played with us for the Boomers, that’s how I see him — so you always wish the best,” Mills said.
With Irving and Simmons out of their respective lineups, the Nets still must deal with All-Star center Joel Embiid — one game after the Bucks outrebounded them 54-44 and put up 21 more shot attempts (105-84).
“You recognize the talent that Ben Simmons brings offensively with his size, speed and playmaking defensively, you know he’s obviously a very elite defender,” Nash said. “Having said that, you know, they anchor their game around Joel, so they have shooting around him, they’re very, very effective.
“They play really hard and defensively, I think you know he is that anchor that allows him to be really good and makes it a lot of clarity for their perimeter guys that they have him behind them so, you know, while Ben’s a great player, they’re a terrific team on both ends of the floor, with or without him.”
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