If you've seen Patty Mills on the bench or on the streets, then you know he's not lacking in creativity or wit. And if you know those things, then you shouldn't be surprised that it was Patty who was the first guy on the team to throw on what has come to be known as around the Trail Blazers locker room as "The Three Goggles."
You've surely seen what I'm talking about if you've watched a game this season. When someone hits a three, Patty and other members of the Trail Blazers will put their index fingers to their thumbs, forming the symbol most commonly used to denote something is "O.K." From there, the hands are brought up to face, with the eyes peering through the circles formed by touching the index fingers and thumbs together. You've got your Three Goggles.
It started in earnest last season. Rudy Fernandez has long held up one half of the Three Goggles (though above his head rather than to his face) after making a shot from beyond the arc, but it was Patty took it a step further as a way to tease the sharpshooting Spaniard who also happens to be one of his closest friends on the team.
See, Rudy has a bit of a problem focusing on objects way off in the distance. The doctors say he doesn't need correction, but sometimes when trying to make out the details of something far off, he has to squint.
Patty, observant as he is clever, had noticed Rudy furrowing his brow in an attempt to bring focus to what his regular vision found ambiguous. So as a way to poke a little fun at his buddy with less than 20/20, Mills mimicked Rudy's hand symbol for a made three, doubled it and brought his hands to his face to mimic a pair of prescription glasses. And thus, Three Goggles was born.
"We started last year, but it wasn't something we'd done all the time," said Mills. "Now it's consistent. He had an eye problem at the beginning of the year that he needed to get tested for, so it's just a little inside joke. Pretty funny. Three-pointer goggles."
Rudy showed up to training camp so serious and unhappy that, were it not for Mills, you could reasonably assume that Fernandez would still be mired in a serious funk. So it stands to reason that one of Patty's biggest contributions this season has been being a great friend to Fernandez, and part of being a friend, as ironic as it is, is busting the chops of those you're closest with.
"Patty sometimes joking about I need glasses," said Fernandez. "Sometimes, you know, I'm unfocused. I no see good in the long distance. The doctors say 'Don't worry about it. You don't need contacts. You don't need anything,' but sometimes I need to do this (squints). It's a joke because sometime Patty say 'You can't see the rim!' So sometimes, when I make the three, glasses with threes."
With the way things are going, Mills might not have much time on the bench to invent new ways to rib his fellow international. Mills has planted his flag as the backup point guard after patiently waiting for an opportunity, which was afforded during a road trip/losing streak that saw Armon Johnson turn the ball over too often for Nate McMillan's liking. The second year guard out of St. Mary's has made the most of the opportunity, improving seemingly with every minute he's on the floor. He turned in the best game of his pro career, a 9-point, 7-assist, 3-rebound performance in Portland's 106-99 victory against the Suns on Tuesday night, at just the right time with Andre Miller serving a one game suspension.
Mills assisted on both of Fernandez's three-pointers Tuesday night, which might say more about the vision of the young Australian than it does his Spanish "bala" (which is Patty Mills speak for "brother").
"He does need glasses," joked Mills. "Every time he makes a shot it's like 'Oh, he must have saw the basket that time.' He needed his Three Goggles on."
Also worth nothing that Mills must not be too worried about Rudy's vision, as evidenced by Patty lasering a no-look pass to Fernandez
that set up an acrobatic reverse layin, the kind of play we were accustomed to seeing Rudy make his rookie year when Sergio Rodriguez was still one half of Portland's "Spanish Armada."
The connection between Fernandez and Mills has many similarities to the the connection between Fernandez and Rodriguez, and early returns would seem to indicate that some of the on court chemistry that gave birth to the 2008 edition of the Spanish Armada is now being seen with Fernandez and Mills.
"If you can take care of the things off the court it will follow on the court," said Mills. "Me and Rudy's friendship and whatever we have is great off the court, so I believe that why we feel so connected on the court."
You don't need a pair of Three Goggles to see that.