Out-of-favour Mills 'invaluable' to NBA's Nets
Patty Mills remains an "invaluable" piece of the Brooklyn Nets' NBA play-off puzzle despite limited recent minutes and will have another chance to break back into the rotation before the season is out, says coach Jacque Vaughn.
Mills found career-best form last season but has fallen down the pecking order in his second campaign with the Nets.
Australia's national captain has featured in only 36 of the Nets's first 61 games this season, for an average of 13.3 minutes - his fewest since the 2012-13 season.
The 34-year-old guard has been reliable when called in as a stop-gap, notably scoring 21 points in a big win over the LA Lakers in January.
But recent movement at the trade table has only made selection more competitive, with new acquisitions Mikal Bridges, Spencer Dinwiddie and Cam Johnson all slotting straight into the starting five ahead of Mills.
Mills hasn't featured in any of the new-look Nets' last five games and most recently sat out of their 118-104 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday (AEDT).
Vaughn was an assistant to the ousted Steve Nash during Mills' stellar first season with the Nets and insisted ahead of the match with the Bucks he had not forgotten about the Australian.
"It's just a different team (to last season), that's what it boils down to," he said of Mills' repeated omissions.
"Right now, we're just trying to figure out rotations. We kind of whittled that down to 10 (players), we're trying to get it down to nine to see what that looks like.
"Going forward, (Mills) is going to get another opportunity to be in the rotation."
Vaughn lauded Mills' off-court value to the Nets, who sit sixth on the eastern conference standings with just more than a month to play in the regular season.
"You don't often get a chance to share how valuable guys are," Vaughn said.
"(Mills) has been through a lot, won at a high level, has the ability to talk to our group in the locker room, keep us calm on the bench.
"He has relationships with guys that go a long way, so he's extremely important when you think about the whole conception of the team."
Mills has also helped countryman Ben Simmons ease back into the NBA.
Simmons, a former No.1 draft pick, returned to play with the Nets after his messy split with the Philadelphia 76ers and well-documented absence from the 2021-22 season.
"(Mills) gives me the opportunity to have a conversation with he and Ben at the same time and is a conduit for what we're trying to accomplish," Vaughn said.
"Patty is invaluable to this group."