Boomer star Patty Mills in Sydney on Tuesday. Picture:Justin Lloyd
Boomer star Patty Mills in Sydney on Tuesday. Picture:Justin Lloyd

Mills says ‘Simmons is excited to play’ Olympics

It's the text message exchange with Ben Simmons that has Boomers veteran Patty Mills confident the NBA All-Star will put aside his grievances with Basketball Australia and play at next year's Tokyo Olympics.

Only moments after Australia's heartbreaking World Cup loss to France in the bronze medal game, Mills reached out to Simmons.

He wanted the Philadelphia 76ers guard to know how much stronger the Boomers will be at the 2020 Olympics with his big-game presence and athleticism.

Simmons is yet to officially commit to Tokyo after pulling out of the World Cup campaign in China to focus on the 2019/20 NBA season.

 

The 23-year-old was also disappointed with the Boomers' lack of resources for support staff, including personal physiotherapists.

Despite this, Mills is confident Simmons will wear green and gold in Japan next July and August.

"Ben is excited to play for Australia," Mills said.

"I spoke to him via text after the World Cup just to touch base with him.

"I knew Ben would have been watching and I wanted to have that conversation with him about his input on the team and how good we will be to have him.

"Everyone has gone back to the NBA for this season and that is their focus but I know there is a part of Ben that is excited to put on the green and gold.

"I think that is the same with the other NBA guys who were unavailable for the World Cup or injured."

 

OFF-COURT IMPROVEMENTS STILL NEEDED

Simmons isn't alone when it comes to concerns about the Boomers' set-up from a professional standpoint.

Mills publicly addressed the players' frustrations earlier this year when a number of team members had their performance demands knocked back due to budgeting reasons.

These requests included a team chef, plus extra recovery and performance staff.

Mills admits Basketball Australia still has room for improvement in the performance space to secure NBA players like Simmons for Tokyo.

"What everyone has got to understand is that this program is more than what everyone sees on the court," he said.

"A lot of work needs to be done off the court to make sure that our program is run the right way to ensure that everything is in place for our other NBA guys to come in."

Mills is fully focused on ensuring the next generation of Boomers have the best working environment to succeed on the international stage.

 

Patty Mills was a standout for Australia at the basketball World Cup. Picture: Getty Images
Patty Mills was a standout for Australia at the basketball World Cup. Picture: Getty Images

"I want to make sure that I've left the program in a much better place than when I arrived," he said. "I understand the calibre of younger players that we have coming through and the talent.

"I want them to have the same passion to play for Australia that we do and that starts with the feeling in the environment around the team. That is what we are doing through our leadership group."

Mills was in a jovial mood when he sat down to chat with The Daily Telegraph at the Under Armour offices in Alexandra on Tuesday.

Flanked by his team, including wife Alyssa, the veteran guard looked happy and unbothered.

Behind the smile, though, he is still haunted by the Boomers' semi-final loss to Spain, including his missed free-throw in the closing stages of regulation time that would have seen Australia through to the Cup final and a guaranteed medal.

 

'IT'S HARD TO SLEEP'

"You see the laughs but to be honest it is all a show," he conceded.

"I'm far from coming down from the World Cup and I won't come down until the Tokyo Olympics begin.

"I'm on another level of determination right now because this feeling is not good.

"The mistakes that were made have kept me up at night.

"After the World Cup I wanted to have a break but the reality is it is hard to sleep when you come off major tournament upset like that.

"It still hurts - it was a devastating feeling.

Boomers players Patty Mills (front) and Joe Ingles (left) after the basketball World Cup semi-final loss to Spain. Picture: AP
Boomers players Patty Mills (front) and Joe Ingles (left) after the basketball World Cup semi-final loss to Spain. Picture: AP

"This is how it is going to sit with me for 10 months until I can I get this thing done and win a medal.

"We fully believe that we were the best team at that World Cup, so I'm going to use this pain as motivation."

Mills was deservedly in the conversation for tournament MVP after starring at the World Cup.

The veteran San Antonio Spurs guard averaged 23.9 points and 4.1 assists while he was the first Australian since Andrew Gaze to score 22-plus points in five consecutive World Cup games.

But Mills isn't satisfied.

"I wasn't happy with it (my form)," he said.

"Our goal was to win a gold medal, so I'm not going to accept anything until then."

 

 

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News Corp Australia


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