Drafted by Portland with the 55th overall pick in the second round in June, Mills suffered a major setback when he broke a bone in his right foot on the first day of training camp on July 9.
It robbed him of a chance to impress in the NBA summer league, which had been considered vital to Mills' chances of earning a spot on the Blazers' roster as second-round picks aren't guaranteed contracts.
The indigenous Australian immediately had surgery before returning home to Canberra for rehabilitation. Mills, who turned 21 last month, flies back to Portland knowing the clock is ticking.
He is still wearing a boot to protect his foot and will have an x-ray next week to determine when he can return to full training. The Blazers' pre-season commences on October 6 against Sacramento and ends on October 22 against Phoenix, with the season proper beginning October 27.
"It's going to be tight,” Mills said. "But I want to show them how fast I can recover and get back to the form I was in and show them I belong at this level. I don't want to give them the reason not to pick me just because I've been injured.
"So I've been working very hard in Canberra making sure I'm doing what I can so when I do get back it's not as big of a jump.”
If Mills doesn't earn a spot for this season, he will most likely play in the secondary NBA Development League for a year, which may not be a bad thing as he will likely see plenty of minutes. Europe would also be an option, but for now all Mills is thinking about is the NBA.
Portland have three point guards already after signing veteran Andre Miller, but Mills is remaining optimistic. "They haven't filled the roster as yet, which is good, and they do have three point guards already,” he said."They signed Andre Miller, which puts me in not an ideal situation, but we'll see when I go over. They've still shown they're keen and interested a lot.”
It has been a tough period for Mills, who had his draft chances hurt by a broken hand during his second season with US college St Mary's. Some questioned his decision to remain in the draft, including ESPN basketball analyst Andy Katz.
"There's no way Mills thought he would go No.55 to Portland when he decided to stay in the draft,” Katz wrote. "Saint Mary's could have used him next season. Maybe Mills needed them as well, to show he can dominate his position.”
But the Australian has no regrets.
"There were projections of getting drafted earlier and I thought my workouts with the teams were solid and the feedback that I got was very positive, which is why I elected to stay in the draft,” he said. "But I made the right decision.”
Story courtesy of AAP in The Daily Telegraph
Left photo courtesy of Colleen Tetch for The Herald Sun/Right photo courtesy of NBA.com