Australia’s troubles weigh on Mills’ mind

Blazers guard wants to do more to help flood victims

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

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PORTLAND — Patty Mills can only grin so wide when he’s dropping double-digit scoring and dominating fourth quarters. It’s hard to be too ecstatic when your home country is being ravaged.

The floods in Queensland, Australia have now claimed at least 13 lives and forced the evacuation of thousands of homes, leaving the point guard sullen despite recent accomplishments.

“It’s hard, man. I have a lot of family in Brisbane. I know quite a few people who have been evacuated from their homes, people who didn’t even make it back to their homes to get whatever stuff they needed,” said Mills, who wore a Brisbane Broncos (rugby) jersey to Tuesday’s game in support of Australia.

“You know, you’re back here in America, and for me living in Portland, it’s usually raining here. In that sense, it’s hard — being from Australia but having to be away when you have a close connection to it.”

So far Mills has donated money to the relief fund and appeared on the simulcasted “Courtside” on Comcast SportsNet Northwest to raise awareness concerning the disaster. However, he’s indicated he wants to do more.

As for the specifics? Well, those have yet to be worked out. But after Tuesday’s game, he suggested “an event of some kind to raise money.”

Mills certainly embraces his celebrity when it comes to bringing attention toward causes important to him, but insists he’d be taking action regardless of his position in life. This isn’t simply him reacting because he’s in the spotlight, but rather a heartfelt outreach to his fellow countrymen.

“I think it’s more of the fact that I am Australian and I’m from there and no matter I high-profile I was, I would do this anyway,” Mills said. “It’s not really an obligation.”

While empathizing with his compatriots, Mills has been playing the best basketball of his career in the U.S. — so well, in fact, the he had logged more than three times as many fourth-quarter minutes as Blazers starting point guard Andre Miller in the five games before Tuesday’s loss to the Knicks.

Miller, who has lauded Mills’ play, hasn’t officially complained about the disparity — but he did tell a media outlet Sunday that “there isn’t an explanation for nothing around here.”

Has this created any tension between he and Mills?

Is Patty feeling awkward?

“Not at all. Andre has been a big part of my development, for me being where I am now,” said Mills, who scored 11 points in the fourth quarter against the Heat on Sunday. “He has helped all along the way. He was with me in the worst times when I wasn’t sure if I was going to be on the team, helping me on and off the court. He’s been great.”

Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or e-mailmatt.calkins@columbian.com