Kevin Durant predicted it.
Back in August, during the NBA offseason when Team USA was in Tokyo winning a gold medal at the Olympics, thanks in large part to 29 points from Durant, the Nets star went on Instagram Live and found Australian star point guard Patty Mills, who had helped the Boomers to a bronze medal. Mills had just signed on to play with the Nets, the team’s major offseason addition.
“Patty coming back to the BK,” Durant said, smiling and showing off his gold medal. “Black and white! Hey, you was balling, you had 40 tonight. There’s gonna be problems for them Boston Celtics this year! I’m telling you!”
Durant shouted that final comment in the direction of Celtics star Jayson Tatum and new coach Ime Udoka, who was an assistant for USA Basketball this summer. Udoka was an assistant with the Spurs while Mills was a backup point guard in San Antonio.
Tatum responded with, “Ge the f*** out of here.”
And Udoka said, “We know how to lock Patty a** up.”
The video resurfaced on Wednesday night after Mills torched Tatum and Udoka, scoring 23 points on 8-for-12 shooting, with 7-for-10 shooting from the 3-point line in a big Nets win. As it turns out, Udoka did not know how to lock up Mills’ derriere.
Udoka, Durant Engage in ‘Friendly Trash Talk’
Udoka, of course, was also an assistant coach with the Nets last season before becoming the Celtics’ head coach, giving him a tight connection with both Durant and Mills. There was some trash talk coming from the Nets stars, but Udoka shook it off after the game.
“Been around those guys forever, so I know them well,” Udoka said in his postgame press conference. “I’m not gonna take it personally as far as that. Just, you do get frustrated when the game plan doesn’t follow for particular guys. If (Mills) gets four open 3s with only one dribble, that’s a lack of understanding who he is and he’s been around long enough for us to know that.”
Durant enjoyed the win especially, racking up 21 points and eight assists.
“It was good to beat Ime,” Durant said postgame Wednesday. “I get excited about coming here and winning in Boston; it’s a tough place to play. But now that Ime is the coach, it makes it even sweeter. … It’s just friendly trash talk. I mean, he talks so much sh** to me.”
Patty Mills Has Torched Teams Beyond Celtics
The win over the Celtics was arguably the best of the season for the Nets. Udoka and the Celtics should not feel too badly about letting Mills get free the way he did—plenty of teams have been burned by Mills this season, especially lately. In his last six games, Mills has averaged 20.0 points on 58.9% shooting, including 58.9% 3-point shooting.
“Settling in I think,” Mills said after the game. “I don’t think there is anything more to it than that. Understanding what’s needed from me, I think. Staying ready, being ready. I know the ball is going to come flying at me at some point. I think staying aggressive, with that aggressive mindset at the end of the day will loosen up Kevin and James. I think that doesn’t just go for me, that goes for everyone down the line.”
Coach Steve Nash has been grateful to have Mills, especially with shooter Joe Harris out with an ankle injury. Here’s how Nash explained Mills’ surge:
Patty was unbelievable tonight. He has been so important for us this year. His spirit is incredible. His IQ and experience are amazing as well. And just the shot-making is elite. So he does so many things for us that kind of ties the whole thing together for us.
Maybe there is more minutes with Joe out, we need his shooting. But he is such a professional. His mentality and the way he works and the way he gives to the group is unbelievable. I think he is such a giver in that respect that he deserves these shots to go in and he’s got the guts to go shoot them in tight moments as well. He just brings a ton to the table for us outside of the shooting.