Aussie Patty Mills boosts the Blazers

Aussie Patty Mills boosts the Blazers

Credit: AP

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Patrick Mills (8) passes the ball as Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash (13) closes in during the second quarter of the game at the Rose Garden on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010, in Portland, Ore. Mills had a career high seven assists as the Blazers won the game 106-99. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)


by Associated Press

Posted on December 9, 2010 at 8:56 AM

Updated Thursday, Dec 9 at 8:56 AM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Patty Mills has been the first Trail Blazer to leap to his feet and cheer from the bench when a teammate scores all this season, often waving his towel over his head.

Now the cheers from the bench are for him.

On Tuesday night, the 6-foot Australian point guard sparked the team to a 106-99 victory over the Phoenix Suns. It was Portland's second win after a string of six losses that were marked by a lack of energy.

Mills finished with nine points and a career-high seven assists. But it was an intangible zeal that earned him an ovation from the Rose Garden crowd -- which included his dad, Benny, who was visiting the United States for the holidays.

Notable among his plays was a sweet no-look pass to his close pal Rudy Fernandez. Mills invented his "3-point goggles" for his Spanish teammate -- which entails making goggles around his eyes with his fingers after Fernandez makes a 3 -- that have caught on with fans.

After the game the Blazers paid Mills back for the enthusiasm that has made him an endearing mascot for Portlanders weathering a tough start to the season.

"Hey Patty," center Marcus Camby teased. "Can I get your autograph now Patty?"

Forward LaMarcus Aldridge chanted "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!"

"I think I feed off the situations of being that cheerleader," Mills said. "And that kind of gets me into a groove to go out there and just play hard."

Earlier Tuesday, Mills took to Twitter to post simply "WTD," short for Win The Day. It was a nod to the second-ranked Oregon Ducks, a team Mills has adopted in his adopted home state.

Mills grabbed international attention when he scored 20 points for Australia in the 2008 Olympics against the gold medal-winning U.S. team. He was the youngest basketball player in Beijing at 19.

He spent two seasons at St. Mary's in Moraga, Calif., before deciding to turn pro, and was selected by the Blazers with the 55th overall pick in the 2009 draft.

He broke his foot before his rookie NBA season, but ended up playing in 10 games. There was suspicion he might not make the Blazers roster this season, but he did and so far he has averaged 3.6 points and 2.4 assists in seven games. He has played about 11 minutes per game.

Coach Nate McMillan, who was a coach for the U.S. team in Beijing and saw Mills before he was a Blazer, rattled off a list of the guard's strengths.

"I think he has a high basketball IQ as far as running sets, knowing when to hold up and call sets. He's a very good passer," McMillan said. "He sees the floor well and he's very crafty with the ball."

Against the Clippers, Mills played nearly 29 minutes, his longest outing of the season. His minutes were required when the Blazers lost guard Andre Miller for the game.

Miller was serving a one-game suspension imposed by the league for making "excessive and unnecessary contact" with Blake Griffin in the fourth quarter of Sunday's win.

"Patty came in and he was hyped and he really got us going," said Wesley Matthews, who led the Blazers with 24 points. "He was just making plays, play after play: shots, assists and playing defense."

Mills basked in the playing time, even joking that it got in the way of his cheerleading.

"Every time I came to the bench I didn't have enough energy to wave the towel, but nothing's going to stop me from being who I am and doing all that stuff," Mills said. "That's something I like to do and that's part of my character, I guess."