Mills backs Spurs to cover superstar injuries to start season

Patty Mills says the San Antonio is still finding the right mix for their NBA championship bid as the Spurs' new $US50 million man prepares to take the reins in the opening game on Thursday.

Mills is set to get an immediate chance to prove his worth when the Spurs start their campaign against the Minnesota Timberwolves without stars Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard.

The low-key Spurs face a massive western-conference challenge this year as they compete with the stacked Golden State Warriors, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets.

Mills is about to start his ninth season and will lead the Australian contingent, including former No. 1 draft pick Ben Simmons, Joe Ingles and Andrew Bogut.

Mills, who signed a four-year contract worth $A63 million, will likely shoulder an increased workload as the Spurs ease veteran Parker back after a tearing his quadriceps tendon last season.

"I don't think anything has changed in our preparation," Mills said in San Antonio.

"Our mindset hasn't changed from how we've prepared in the past. The only difference is that we don't have Kawhi and Tony.

"We'd love to have everyone healthy, but this is the first game, not the play-offs.

"The first game is here, we're still trying to work out who we are as a team and what our staple is."

Simmons will start his NBA career against the Washington Wizards when he makes his highly anticipated debut more than a year after he was drafted.

A record nine Australians are on NBA rosters this year, with Bogut moving to the Lakers, Ingles re-signing with the Utah Jazz and Matthew Dellavedova continuing at Milwaukee alongside Thon Maker.

The season got off to a horrific start on Wednesday when Boston Celtics recruit Gordon Hayward dislocated his ankle in a clash against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Hayward collided in the air with LeBron James and crashed to the floor on his left leg in a horrifying way.

A hush fell over Cleveland's home arena as players grimaced, including the Celtics' Australian big man Aron Baynes, as Hayward winced on the floor and team doctors set the foot back in place.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to Gordon," James said. "It was a pretty gruesome injury."

Mills is hoping the Spurs get off to a smoother start as he looks to back up the best year of his career so far.

The 29-year-old played 80 regular-season games last year and averaged 9.5 points and 3.5 assists.

He stepped up in the playoffs when Parker was injured and averaged 10.3 points per game, but the Spurs' championship hopes were ruined by the Warriors.

"A huge part of me staying [in San Antonio] was the amount I was able to learn off the court that I don't think I would have learnt anywhere else in a basketball environment," Mills said.

"This is a classroom and one I thoroughly enjoy. It's broadened my horizons ... it's about getting everyone to buy into the system.

"The guys we have now, I've been really impressed with how quickly everyone has bought in. It's not easy to do, but we're on the right track."

This story Mills backs Spurs to cover superstar injuries to start season first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.