Point guard Patty ready for 'interview'

Point guard Patty ready for 'interview'

As Patty Mills prepares for what he has labelled his "job interview" at the basketball world championships in Turkey, the young Australian point guard doesn't need to look far for inspiration.

An unrestricted free agent after ending an unhappy rookie season in Portland, Mills will be auditioning for a new NBA contract while with the Australian team at the world titles.

And he has another Australian floor general close at hand for guidance in Shane Heal, who played in the NBA with Minnesota and San Antonio and is with the Boomers in Turkey as an assistant coach.

In 1996, Heal took on an intimidating United States outfit in a warm-up game before the Atlanta Olympics, infamously chest-bumping NBA superstar Charles Barkley before a starring role at the Games earned the blond guard a ticket to the world's best basketball league.

Although just a child at the time, Mills remembers watching that Australia-US game and now wants to make his own mark on the world stage and ensure he gets another shot at the NBA.

"Every young basketballer would remember that. It was a great moment in Australian basketball history," the 22-year-old told AAP on the eve of Australia's first match against Jordan.

"He's a great example and we're all grateful that he's here, me in particular.

"Playing the same position, I'm looking up to him and listening to what he has to say and he's got great advice obviously.

"That's a great example to see that he did it and to try to follow those steps."
Mills has already seen first-hand the impact a strong showing in international basketball can have, turning heads in China in the lead-up to and during the Beijing Olympics.

Virtually unknown and just turning 20, Mills' performance against Americans Chris Paul and Jason Kidd in particular just prior to the Games got scouts' attention.

But, drafted in the second round by the Trailblazers in 2009, things then didn't go as planned for the indigenous Australian.
On his first day in training camp, Mills broke a bone in his right foot that ruled him out of the NBA summer league, which was to be crucial in him earning a final roster spot with Portland.

He ultimately made the team, but was sent back and forth between the Blazers and the secondary NBA Development League.

While there were a few bright moments, including an 11-point game in only 13 minutes on court against Golden State in April, Mills admits it was a disappointing year.

"It was tough. Whenever you're coming back from an injury it's always going to be tough and it was a bad time in my career coming just when I was making my move into the NBA.

"It was a bad first impression but I saw it as a learning experience, getting my head around how everything works.

"Even though I didn't play a lot I still learned a lot by watching and talking to teammates and watching other guys.

"Now here in Turkey is a good chance for me to put all that to work."
One man who has plenty of faith in the lightning-quick guard is Heal.

"He's so important to our team. He has to play well if we're to reach our potential," he said.

"There's pressure on but it's a good situation.

"I think when you're on the world stage you invite that pressure and that's what he's been working towards and if he does well he'll get a great opportunity to be rewarded."
Another huge admirer of Mills is Boomers coach Brett Brown.

Brown, who is also an assistant with the Spurs in the NBA, has been getting in Mills' ear about the opportunities ahead of him.

Brown has also been reminding him about San Antonio guard Tony Parker, one of the quickest point guards in the league who has a lot of similarities to Mills.

"I see it as a great opportunity," Brown said.

"I've seen lots of players parlay an opportunity like this into better things.

"I saw Shane Heal light up the Atlanta Olympics and then jump into the Minnesota Timberwolves. I use that as an example.

"I use the example of Tony Parker having to balance his innate scoring ability with getting (Spurs teammates) Manu (Ginobili) and Timmy (Duncan) the ball.

"Patty has a special talent where he can score and he's got God-given speed.

"What he is now is pretty special, but also I've seen the path of Tony Parker and I know where Patty can be down the road.

"I think he's going to be pretty special at the London Olympics (in 2012) and I think he's going to be really special in those subsequent world events to follow."
Mills is relishing the challenge.

"Any chance you get to go on the floor it's a chance to prove yourself, it's like an interview to get a job and everyone's watching," he said.

"After last season I have the belief the NBA is the league that I belong in."

James Dampney / AAP