Patty Mills’ surprising injury shouldn’t complicate Spurs’ offseason


UPDATE: The Spurs and Patty Mills have agreed to a three-year deal, per Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News. We’ll have more when contract details emerge.


The right shoulder of backup point guard Patty Mills has been an issue for quite awhile now. Kinesiology tape had been heavily wrapped around his shooting arm like a spiderweb over the final two months of the Spurs’ fifth championship campaign, but the reserve gunslinger never seemed too much worse for wear, bombing 3-pointers on his way to what was sure to be a lucrative offseason.

Then news broke late Tuesday night that the trouble hidden beneath that taped entanglement was more serious than anyone anticipated. The Sydney Herald reported Mills will undergo surgery for what appears to be a torn rotator cuff in his shooting shoulder and is expected to miss up to seven months, a report that was later confirmed. It is some incredibly disappointing, if not devastating news for the 25-year-old Australian, whose on-court performance made him a large part of the NBA’s free-agent conversation.

Rumors have been circulating (on the low, though) since the end of the Spurs’ season that something was amiss and potentially concerning with Mills’ physical state, but nothing with real substance. Until Tuesday night. For the newly unrestricted free agent, the timing could hardly have been worse. Mills was set to, in all likelihood, triple or even quadruple his salary; now, any team that chooses to commit to him is taking a risk, however large or small it may be.

“I haven’t been through free-agency before, having this injury changes everything again,” Mills told Fairfax Media in the Sydney Herald’s report. “I have no idea how it works, but I’m guessing it will affect [my next deal]. But it’s out of my hands. It is what it is. We’ve got to make the most of the situation and move on.”

While the injury risk does carry its own set of complications, the development doesn’t significantly change the offseason outlook for the Spurs. It was widely believed over the course of Mills’ breakout season the two sides would come to an agreement to keep the point guard in San Antonio, and that’s not expected to change. In fact, the prospect of convincing him to re-sign may have just gotten a tad easier. So long as the team is confident in Mills’ ability to recover, the Spurs have three luxuries other competitors in the point-guard market might not possess — time, money, and a championship-caliber roster.

San Antonio owns Mills’ Bird Rights (which means the team can go over the cap to re-sign him) and plenty of space under the luxury-tax threshold to make a highly competitive offer, unless an outside suitor submits an outlandish proposal too rich for Spurs blood. They’ve also got time and depth on their side, not to mention another young point guard itching for an opportunity.

Cory Joseph is entering the final year of his rookie deal and is actually eligible for a contract extension before Oct. 31, but he’s spent the majority of his time in San Antonio fighting for scraps of playing time. He may now have a real chance to show he can play, and just in time for his second contract.

Again, it all hinges on San Antonio’s confidence in the state of Mills’ shoulder, but if they feel he’ll be fine moving forward this shouldn’t throw much of a wrench in the negotiation process. Marc Stein reported Wednesday morning that the two sides have already begun talks on a new deal, and that they are expected to reach an agreement. If Mills can ink a deal in the near future, perhaps it will help alleviate the most painful part of this injury — having to pull out of this summer’s FIBA World Cup.

“Missing the Boomers is the toughest of it all, I have a tremendous amount of pride to play for Australia,” Mills was quoted as saying in the Herald’s report. “It’s going to be a brutal recovery process. I’ll go straight into surgery, but I’m told the next four to six weeks I won’t be able to do anything, and it will be brutal.”

Really tough break for Patty, as it’s likely this development has cost him some interest in free agency. But if the plan all along has been to return to San Antonio, then it’s doubtful much has changed in that capacity. The Spurs’ front office is as fair and loyal as it gets in the NBA, and you’d expect he’ll be offered a salary on par with his expectations.

The only real uncertainty going forward, if Mills is re-signed, may come with his return to the court. If his replacement as Parker’s backup — Joseph, in all likelihood, in a contract year — plays well in his stead, Gregg Popovich’s job as minutes-juggler will become a bit more complicated. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

  • Martin

    If he feels that he’ll be lowballed due to injury, then Spurs should offer him a 2 year contract with player option after 1 year so he can become a FA next year and get his payday. That way, Spurs can save a couple Million bucks this year that could come handy bringing in another player and give him the opportunity to join another team after this season if he feels there is a better opportunity.

  • Mike Smith

    Sucks for Patty but great if the Spurs can get him on a discount. In many respects Tony Parker and Manu have below market value deals because of bad timing. Why over spend?

  • GoSpursGo

    Spurs should not lowball him. Give him a good salary for a good reserve, but not starters money. Maybe 12 mill over 3 years or somewhere around there. Treat him fairly and he will, if he is a Spurs type player, respond.

  • Dapimp Ofdayear

    To realize that he lit up Miami with a bad shoulder, wow.

  • I need more cowbell

    I love Patty but i think Joseph should be extended if and when Parker leaves the spurs.

  • GoSpursGo

    Dang, I am good. This is the same deal that is being reported.

  • GoSpursGo

    He had a bum shoulder, Manu had a stress fracture, Duncan is 1,234 years old, and yet it was the Heat that broke down first. I guess there was nothing wrong with the Spurs’ heart

  • TheRed&Black

    This is great. The dude is 25, and we get him for three of his peak years. My bet is he hugely out produces the worth of his contract, and greatly maximizes the chances of a healthy and fresh Tony Parker. At worst I think it’s a very tradable contract.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Looks like it’s three years, $12 million. It’s a nice deal for both sides, really. It’s quite a bit less than Patty might’ve gotten (I’d say so, considering Jodie f-ing Meeks just signed a 3-year deal for $19-20 million!) but still a very good deal considering where he was a year ago. The Spurs take some risk but not too much and get a good player who’s already a big part of the team for below-market rates. Win, win.

    BTW, I’m really surprised that he needed that surgery. Rotator cuff issues really aren’t that big of a problem in basketball. I have a congenital issue in my right shoulder, so I’ve played my whole life with this problem. The only effect a torn rotator cuff has on your shooting is a little instability in your motion. But that can be solved through physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around it. The only real effect it ever had on my game was outlet passes. Well, that and a little pain. If you can handle the discomfort, though, you can move a refrigerator with a torn rotator cuff. The surgery, however… That’s serious stuff. I saw a world-renowned shoulder specialist in Seattle about the problem once and he described the surgery as “maximally invasive”. Not the nicest pair of words to hear! And the recovery is long and painful, so this guy only ever advocates it as a last resort. I guess it must have been a pretty serious problem to resort to surgery, but it sure didn’t look that way last month.

    Best of luck to Patty in his recovery!

  • Carlo Duroni

    Mmh… In my Spurs’ future roster of 2015-16 I put Mills at 4M$/yr.
    It seems that’s the RIGHT figure for everybody!

  • ewhite06

    What’s all this talk I hear about the Spurs going after Pau Gasol? How would they even pull that off? With Mills signed, Gasol would would mean no Diaw. Unless they looked into trading away Splitter or something. I think Gasol would be a great addition – he’s great on offense and could play in the system for sure. Not so sure about the defensive side… Plus, the Spurs couldn’t offer near as much as the Lakers can. I just can’t see him willing to take that kind of pay cut. But maybe the chance of playing on a legitimate contender (and not next to Kobe) comes at a discount. Am I missing something?

  • GoSpursGo

    With the signing of Cotton, it looks like the Spurs are trying to keep a pipeline of annoying, quick, scoring points. With the lack of reliance on a playmaking guard to imitate the offense, the Spurs can capitalize on the abundance of undersized scoring guards who can only guard the 1 in the pros. In short, whether or not Cotton pans out, I think we can expect to see a steady stream of Patty Mills clones.

    One of the great things about The System is the seeming ability to capitilize on a skillset, even if it is in the wrong package. Rebounding from the small forward, passing from the center and power forward, scoring from the point guard. This opens the Spurs up to a lot of non-conventional players that other teams cannot effectively use.

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