NBA stars to continue the resurgence of basketball in Australia
September 16, 2011 · Print This Article
By Sergio Macklin
Portland Trailblazer and Boomers point guard, Mills, has signed for the duration of the NBA lockout, which will last until club owners and the NBA players association decide on a collective bargaining agreement. The last NBA lockout in 1999 lasted three months.
Milwaukee Bucks and Australian centre, Bogut, tweeted last week that he had talked with NBL teams in Sydney, Perth and Adelaide.
The remaining obstacle is a $500,000 injury insurance policy to cover his hefty contract with the Bucks.
An inside source said he expected Bogut to sign with Sydney by next week. If the big man does put pen to paper as expected, the October 7 game between the Tigers and Kings looms as a blockbuster with real star power.
Mills should easily slide into the guard orientated system and looks set to become a menace to defenders around the country, a tantalising prospect for Tigers’ fans.
He knocked back more lucrative offers in Europe for the chance to play for the same club as his childhood hero Andrew Gaze.
Mills said while he expects to play at least half the season his availability will depend on the NBA lockout.
“I’m excited – very excited – it’s been a very long and hard process. I’m sitting here happy as can be and really excited to play at the Tigers. The goal for me is to continue my development as a player and maintain my fitness and to make sure I can be in the best shape I can be in come the end of the lockout.
“One thing I’ve learned since being in the NBA is that it’s all about the business. It’s not just playing and all the fun that goes along with playing, it is a business,” Mills said.
A boost for the struggling league:
Tigers CEO, Seamus McPeake, said the Mills coup would help the NBL in its push to regain prominence amongst Australian sporting codes.
“It’s beneficial for the sport all around the country. No matter where we go, Melbourne Tigers are anticipating sell out crowds at all of our games. We play 14 away games as well and everywhere we go people will want to come out and see Patty play,” McPeake said.
He said that an NBA player is a bigger drawcard than the A-League’s offseason acquisitions of Brett Emerton and Harry Kewell.
“This is a bigger coup than any other sport in the country. They played in the English Premier League while Patty plays in the NBA. To be a Boomers point guard and play in the NBA and come out and play for us I think for the sport overall it has got to be fantastic.”
The Tigers home court, “The Cage” in Parkville, has a capacity of 3500, nowhere near the league record attendance of 17,143 set back in 1999 in a game between Sydney and Canberra.
Clubs were forced to downsize their arenas when financial difficulties hit the league after its heyday in the 90s. Broadcasting rights for the NBL for much of the last decade have been solely in the hands of Fox Sports before Network Ten affiliate, One, began broadcasting NBL games on free-to-air television again last year.
However, with NBA talent such as Mills in the NBL and big man Andrew Bogut contemplating coming to the league, things have started to turn around.
Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze said with high participation numbers around the country in basketball and crowd numbers up around 15% last year, the league was now in a good position. He said although losing players like Joe Ingles to overseas teams with better resources had hurt the league, the NBL is getting stronger.
“Notwithstanding that there has been some economic challenges that the competition still faces but when you consider the way the league was played last year with new naming rights sponsor for the competition, new television broadcast arrangements with free to air television and the expansion of that this season where we are going to have three games live every week, it is a very healthy situation for the league to be in,” Gaze said.
The free to air deal with One runs until the end of the 2014-15 season with five games a week to be shown in the final year of the contract.
Gaze said more still can be done to improve the premier Australian league such as removing the limit of two international players.
“Some people say we need the restrictions to give Australian talent an opportunity to compete at the highest level. I am personally not an advocate for that. I think we should open the competition up to the best talent regardless of where they are from. I believe that the Australian talent is good enough to compete with players not only from the United States but throughout the world,” he said.