The relationship between Patty Mills and Gregg Popovich has blossomed over a decade long period the pair shared in San Antonio.
On the court and off the court, the public nature of care and respect between the longtime Spurs player and coach has been evident. With that in mind, the timing of free agency was unique with both Mills and Popovich in Tokyo representing their countries at the Olympic games.
Locked into his key role with the Boomers, Mills laments not being able to extend courtesy phone calls and reach out to key people that have contributed to his basketball and life journey prior to signing with the Brooklyn Nets.
"It was hard for me not to have the usual conversations that I would in a normal world," Mills admits.
"The one person I was able to talk to was Pop. Obviously, everything he has done for me in my career, on the court and especially off the court. Being able to do that was special and that was really the only conversation I was able to have."
Making the move to an Eastern Conference contender makes sense on paper, with the decision made all the more easier with an open conversation with Popovich.
"The conversation is comfortable. I wouldn't say that it's easy but it's comfortable. It extends far beyond basketball. Now when you have the conversation it's genuine love there and support for your career as a person more than anything. It's almost like basketball isn't a part of the conversation and I think that's a testament to him number one of really caring about his players and going the extra mile to understand his players on a different level.
"That's something I've picked up from him. How he's able to connect his players to the outside world, there is a world out there bigger than basketball and meaningful and you learn that stuff because of him. Now when you have those conversations there's a lot more meaning there. The time we spent together and how much I've learned from him, the ups and downs, the highs and lows that we share, all that comes into play, but it was just a comfortable conversation. They all are because it comes from a genuine place."
Like every decision Mills makes, the move to Brooklyn was a family decision, with the Australian guard excited to make Brooklyn a home away from home.
"Being in the NBA for a few years and being in San Antonio for ten of those seasons, it was an opportunity for me to turn the page of a new chapter. The culture of the city was something that very attractive to me and my wife so to be able to make a next step in our life was very exciting."
The work in Brooklyn begins in a few short weeks, with Mills taking the time to spend time at home in Australia with family after clearing two weeks of hotel quarantine.
"I am super fresh out of quarantine, I only got out yesterday. To be able to be with the family yesterday and last night, just a ton of raw emotion being able to hand deliver an Olympic medal to our country and to my family. There was a lot of emotion, a lot of tears last night as you can imagine. On top of all that just excited to be back home to be honest. In a COVID world it's been quite tough.
"I've got my good Australian coffee, which I'm also excited about Brooklyn knowing how many good local mum and pop cafes there are. That's something I'm super excited for," he said with a laugh.
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