MELBOURNE Tigers and the NBL are hailing it as their Harry Kewell moment - only better.
The signing of Boomers point guard Patty Mills is set to provide the Tigers and the league with a massive boost that could lead to sell-out crowds around the country.
Signed on the proviso he is released once the NBA lockout is lifted (so he can try to keep his spot with the Portland Trailblazers), Mills, 23, may be Australia's most popular current player.
With the Tigers set to have 24 of their 28 games telecast on One HD, the NBL is hoping to have Mills wearing the No.20 jersey all season.
"Melbourne Tigers are anticipating sell-out crowds," Tigers owner Seamus McPeake said.
"Every venue we go to people will want to see Patty play. The hype around Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton was big, (but) this is a bigger coup for sport in the country.
Canberra-born Mills is eager to continue his improvement with the Tigers after turning down several European offers.
"I'm sitting here happy as can be right now and happy to get this great opportunity to play," Mills said yesterday.
"My goal is to continue my development and to make sure I'm in the best shape I can be when the lockout in the NBA finishes."
In some ways the Mills deal mirrors the 1998 NBA lockout when Andrew Gaze left the Tigers mid-season to sign with the San Antonio Spurs, and there is every chance Mills could be gone with a moment's notice.
"You just go with the flow," Mills said. "As a Tiger I'm here to the end so we'll just have to wait and see.
"One thing I've learnt in the NBA is it's all about business (and) it's out of my control. All I can do now is sign with the Tigers."
Mills is in Australia preparing for the Boomers do-or-die Olympic qualification series against arch-rivals New Zealand.
They will face the Tall Blacks in a three-game series with games in Melbourne (Sept 7), Brisbane (Sept 9) and Sydney (Sept 11).
Mills and the Tigers will open the 2011/12 NBL season against the Sydney Kings at Melbourne's State Netball Hockey Centre on Friday October 7.
(via Herald Sun)