SAN ANTONIO — Given his passion for promoting social justice, veteran guard Patty Mills could be described as the conscience of a Spurs team that will fly to Orlando, Fla., on Thursday to continue preparing for the NBA's reboot.
Mills demonstrated the power of his convictions once again Wednesday in a Zoom call with reporters.
Mills announced he will donate his salary from the Silver and Black's last eight regular-season games – a sum of more than $1 million – to the cause of social justice and the struggle against racism in his native Australia.
"Health and safety is probably the No. 1 priority for everyone in this situation," Mills said. "It's a massive concern for everyone, not just for basketball, but around the world. The decision about Orlando and going or not has definitely not been an easy decision to make.
"I also understand my responsibility to this team and to the organization, and being able to do my part, no matter how big or small, to be able to make an impact on this organization for the big picture, the long run."
What he said next should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Mills and the qualities that have endeared him to his teammates, coaches and fans since he joined the Silver and Black in 2011.
"In spite of all the concerns, I've made the decision to go to Orlando and I'm proud to say that I'm taking every cent earned from these eight games that we're playing, which for me will turn out to be $1,017,881.54," Mills said.
Mills will contribute that amount to three groups engaged in the struggle for social justice: Black Lives Matter Australia, Black Deaths in Custody and the We Got You campaign.
"I'm playing in Orlando because I don't want to leave any money on the table that could be going directly to black communities," Mills said. "For the first time in my career, I have white people, teammates, old teammates, old coaches, telling me that they never knew the level of racism that exists in sports, especially in Australia.
"They haven't felt comfortable asking me, as a Black Australian, about racism before at this step, which speaks to the impact and the value of the Black Lives Matter movement and the millions who participated in protests around the world."
Mills, the longest-tenured Spur on this season's team, played on the 2013-14 squad that won the franchise's last championship in 2014. Mills averaged 11.7 points and 23 minutes in 63 games before the season was suspended March 11 because of the coronavirus.
"I'm looking forward to Orlando as an opportunity to be able to launch my mission of race and social justice," said Mills, who turns 32 on August 11. "I'm very eager, just like I am on the court, to be able to rise to the occasion and make a direct impact."
First-year Spurs forward Trey Lyles, who also was on Wednesday's Zoom call, lauded Mills for his leadership on and off the court and commitment to social justice.
"He's a guy that I think everybody looks to for motivation and stuff like that," Lyles said. "Along with his actions, his words back up his actions. You see the things that he does in the community, with the Heritage Night he had earlier in the season for the Spurs.
"He's donated all this money to Black Lives Matter. Seeing all the stuff he does in the community with the COVID stuff that was going on early on . . . he was doing charity events. He's definitely been somebody that I think not only the team, but the league realizes is a community leader and somebody who's always carting about other people."
After arriving in Orlando on Thursday afternoon, the Spurs will go through a round of COVID-19 testing before checking into their hotel at the Walt Disney World Resort. The San Antonio party will be sequestered for "36 to 48 hours," team spokesman Tom James said. The team's first workout is tentatively set for Saturday.
The Spurs are among the 22 NBA teams that will resume the 2019-20 season in Orlando. San Antonio plays Sacramento on July 30 in its first game since beating Dallas on March 10.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver suspended the season the next day after Utah Jazz All-Star center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.
All games of the NBA's reboot will be played at ESPN's Wide World of Sports on the Disney World Resort campus, which will be the league's headquarters through the end of the Finals.
Each team will have three scrimmages before resuming the season. The Spurs, who leave for Orlando on Thursday, take on the Milwaukee Bucks in their first scrimmage July 23. Every team will play eight regular-season games.
All players, coaches, and league officials will be sequestered at the Disney World Resort "bubble" for the duration.
San Antonio (27-36) trailed Memphis by four games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference before the pandemic made sports an afterthought.
The Silver and Black were 12th in the West standings with 19 games left on their schedule but trailed ninth-place Portland by only a half-game in the ultra-competitive West.
"I was a go from the get (get-go)," Lyles said, when he was asked if he considered opting out of the games in Orlando. "I see a lot of guys were teetering the line and what not with wanting to go back or not. I think for me, closing out how I did and then knowing we have an opportunity to still make the playoffs was a big part for me.
"There's a lot more going on, maybe you could say more important things going on in the world right now, but I think this is the stage for us to showcase. If I were to stay at home, I wouldn't be able to do that."
Lyles played in every Spurs game before the season was interrupted, averaging 6.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 20 minutes. He started 53 of the 63 games.