'Special human being': Coach's beautiful parting act for Patty Mills

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Pictured here, Aussie star Patty Mills and Team USA coach Gregg Popovich embrace at the Olympics.
Aussie star Patty Mills and Team USA coach Gregg Popovich embraced after Australia's bronze medal win at the Olympics. Pic: Getty

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has paid Patty Mills the ultimate compliment in a touching tribute to the Aussie star, who is leaving the franchise after a decade of blood, sweat and tears.

Mills is moving to the Brooklyn Nets after 10 seasons with the San Antonio franchise - the highlight of which culminated in an NBA championship ring in 2014.

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The Nets confirmed they have signed the Boomers captain on a two year deal reportedly worth $12 million.

Still buzzing from inspiring Australia's Tokyo Olympic bronze medal playoff win, Mills is now preparing to link with the Nets and superstars Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, after spending the last decade in San Antonio.

The Spurs also posted a beautiful tribute video showing highlights of Mills playing for the team over the years, captioning the post: "You have a home in San Antonio forever. To the ultimate Spur... Thank you, Bala. Thank you.

But the most beautiful message came from his long-time coach at the Spurs, who said the Aussie's growth as a player and a human being has been an inspiration.

“We didn’t know what we were getting, really, when we got him,” Popovich said in the video posted on Spurs' social media channels.

“As a basketball player, he’s gone off the charts with development. But as a human being and as a member of our society and a leader on our team. He’s been fantastic.

“He embodies empathy, awareness, an ability to be actionable after he speaks about things.

“He’s a very special human being, he’s doing things to try and make the world a better place.

“It’s been a thrill to watch him grow from just a guy who got signed and didn’t really have a role or wasn’t sure whether he was going to stay in the league or make it or anything like that.”

Seen here, Patty Mills celebrates after helping the Boomers claim a historic medal at the Olympics.
Mills celebrates after helping the Boomers claim a historic medal at the Olympics. Pic: Getty

Mills and Popovich - who also coaches Team USA - were seen embracing one another in a lovely moment at the Olympics after Mills helped Australia win their first men's basketball medal in Games history.

“We’ve talked before about what a wonderful human being he is,” Popovich told The New York Post last week.

“He’s a really unique player. And he has been special for the Spurs, but he’s moving on to Brooklyn now, and we’ll miss him a great deal.

“It’s a good move for him, playing for a team that’s going to be a contender.”

Patty Mills leaves behind a big legacy at Spurs 

The 12-year NBA veteran averaged 10.8 points on 41.2 per cent shooting (37.5 per cent from three-point range) in 24.8 minutes per game over 68 games (one start) last season, hitting a career-high 161 three-pointers.

Overall Mills - who turns 33 on Wednesday - has appeared in 739 career NBA games, averaging 8.9 points, 1.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

The Australian guard was a second-round pick in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, where he spent two seasons before joining San Antonio.

Mills ranks first in three-pointers made off the bench (1,095) and third in points scored off the bench (5,919) as well as minutes played off the bench (13,007).

His 1,095 three pointers off the bench are the fourth-most in NBA history, trailing only Kyle Korver (1,385), Jamal Crawford (1,259) and Lou Williams (1,198).

He has missed just 12 regular season games over the last six NBA campaigns, appearing in 80 or more games five times in his career.

A regular member of the Boomers since 2007, Mills is coming off an outstanding Tokyo Olympics where he averaged 23.3 points and 6.3 assists.

Saving his best until last, Mills dropped 42 points in Australia's 107-93 bronze medal playoff win over Slovenia as the Boomers secured their first ever men's Olympic basketball medal.

with agencies

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