Patty Mills #8 of the Nets controls the ball against...

Patty Mills #8 of the Nets controls the ball against Jordan Nwora #13 of the Milwaukee Bucks at Barclays Center on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

When the star-studded Nets signed free-agent super sixth man Patty Mills to a two-year deal worth $12 million in July, it was considered a coup. In hindsight, it might turn into a lifesaver.

That’s because the sharpshooting 32-year-old guard might wind up picking up much of the slack left by Kyrie Irving if he continues to remain "ineligible" for all games played in New York City, which has a COVID-19 mandate that forbids unvaccinated people over the age of 12 from entering buildings designated as public venues. Irving has not specified his vaccination status, but he currently is not allowed in Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden.

As the only Nets player designated to speak to the media at Saturday’s "Practice in the Park" event at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Mills was peppered with questions about Irving, who took part in the outdoor event. Mills deftly deflected most of them.

Asked if he expects Irving to play at home, Mills said, "I think we’ve got to control what we can control and stay focused as much as we can. To go back to the point of today, it’s a fun environment to be in and leave all the distractions out and come to enjoy it."

Leaving "distractions" behind will be easier said than done so long as Irving’s status for home games is uncertain. Told that teammate Kevin Durant expressed hope that Irving will take part in every game, Mills said, "I think we’re taking it one step at a time. To have everyone here outside at this game is pretty special I think."

When it was suggested his role might grow in Irving’s absence, Mills said, "My role’s going to be the same no matter what happens in the future. I think that’s what I’ve understood. I just control what I can control on the court and go about my business like I’ve always done and make the most of the opportunities that way."

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