Signed by Portland last Saturday to a one-year non-guaranteed contract for the rookie minimum, Mills remained in a three-way battle for the final roster spot and could still have been waived by the franchise prior to the start of the season on October 27.
Despite being unable to take the court as the rehab on his broken foot continues, Mills won the battle when he was chosen ahead of veterans Ime Udoka and Jarron Collins.
The Blazers’ front office today announced that they had signed the Canberra native to a two-year guaranteed contract and while the terms of the contract were not disclosed it is estimated that he will earn just under $US1 million by June 2011.
''This is amazing, it's such a good feeling,'' a relieved Mills said.
''It feels like I finally got the gorilla off my back.
''It was a massive gorilla and there were times when I thought I wasn't going to make it, but finally I've got rid of it and now I just want to be part of the team.''
Mills still has a lot of work to do before he makes his debut in the world’s premier basketball league.
He will most likely spend time in the NBA’s Development League, or D-League, with Portland’s feeder club Idaho Stampede to get back to match fitness.
If all goes well and he joins the Blazers in the regular season as expected there are three highly rated point guards on the roster that will demand court time ahead of the untested rookie.
But if Mills’ performances in big games are anything to go by, he will shine when the spotlight focuses on him.
It was two such big game performances – Mills’ equal team high 13 points in a pre-Olympic exhibition match for the Boomers against the US in Shanghai on August 5th last year and Mills’ team high 20 points against the US at the Olympic Games – that probably secured him the Portland deal.
TrailBlazers Head Coach Nate McMillan is an Assistant Coach with Team USA and saw both performances first hand from courtside.
Four Australians – former number one draft pick Andrew Bogut (Milwaukee), power forward David Andersen (Houston), indigenous pioneer Nathan Jawai (Minnesota) and Mills – will compete in the NBA this season.
The NBA regular season opens on October 28, Australian time.
By Bill Baxter for Basketball Australia