Mills opts out, but could return to Nets
Brooklyn's reliable sharpshooter to test free-agent market
Though he wasn’t one of the three superstars — Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving — the Brooklyn Nets began last season boasting about, Patty Mills did more than his share throughout the 2021-22 season.
So much so that he’s testing his value on the free-agent market.
With free agency opening on Thursday, Mills decided Wednesday that the best season of his career was worth shopping.
The sharpshooting combo guard opted out of his $6.2 million deal for next season, giving him time to see how much value he has among the rest of the league’s teams.
Mills, 33, averaged career highs of 11.4 points per game, 48 starts and 227 3-pointers while Durant, Irving and Harden took turns as the main attraction on a team that was swept in the opening round of the playoffs by eventual Eastern Conference champion Boston.
The Big Three has been shrunk down to the Dynamic Duo again after Harden forced a trade to Philadelphia last February and Irving opted in to his $36.5 million option for next season.
Durant has four years left on his deal and general manager Sean Marks still needs a player like Mills, ultra-reliable and versatile, to fill out the rest of his roster and the scoresheet in 2022-23.
Mills played in all but one of the Nets’ 82 regular-season games, something Durant, Harden and Irving could only dream of achieving in what was tabbed as a potential championship year for Brooklyn.
He received the Joe Dumars Trophy, as voted on by NBA players, for his sportsmanship this past season.
“The award Patty received is great because it’s voted on by his peers,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “The players voted him the sportsmanship player of the year. We see it every day, but for the opposing teams to see it is definitely a testament to Patty and his character.
“He has such an incredible character and spirit about him, what he brings in here every day with his work ethic and his team-first attitude. His motives are so pure and it goes beyond just his game and the team. He really wants all facets of our group to thrive, and he puts time and effort into all of that.”
Nash makes it sound like Mills is worth much more than the $7 million or so the Nets can offer him for a run-it-back campaign with Durant and Irving.
The rest of the NBA may think he’s worth more than that.
“He’s a genuine person,” said Nets swingman Ben Simmons, who has yet to play for Brooklyn since being acquired from the 76ers in the deal for Harden. “He always does the right thing. He wants to be a great leader and a great teammate.
“That’s something he always preaches,” added Simmons. “Throughout his whole career he’s been like that since I’ve known him as a kid. It’s being Patty. That’s who he is as a person. For him to win, it’s not a surprise. But it’s big.”
According to an ESPN report, Mills is still interested in returning to our borough as a key piece in what Brooklyn basketball fanatics are still hoping will be the first team since the 1955 Dodgers to enjoy a championship parade down Flatbush Avenue.
But the price and the situation has to be right for the Nets to retain one of the most consistent presences they had on their roster last season.
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