Mitch Creek was in a Manhattan cafe recently talking on the phone to a friend back in Australia about the difficulty in finding a good cup of coffee in the US.
“I hung up the phone and the guy next to me laughed and said, ‘The coffee is terrible isn’t?'” Creek told AAP of his New York moment.
“This guy said he has travelled the world and the best coffee he has had was in Australia.
“I said, ‘Where in Australia?’ and he said ‘Melbourne’.”
Creek, born and raised in Horsham in country Victoria, agreed with the American stranger and a conversation began.
The 26-year-old Creek, an eight-year veteran of the NBL’s Adelaide 36ers, is loving living in New York and pursuing a contract in the world’s elite basketball league – the NBA.
His cafe moment exemplified what it was like for a young Aussie getting his first taste of the metropolis that is New York.
When Creek told his new cafe mate how he was a member of the Brooklyn Nets’ feeder club, the Long Island Nets, he was shocked to hear what the guy did for a living.
“He told me he managed $US35 billion in assets at a financial company,” Creek said.
“I was like, ‘Cool’.
“In New York you understand very quickly how little you are in this world.
“I describe New York as Melbourne on steroids.”
Creek’s enthusiasm to do the hard work on a basketball court, be a great teammate off it and enjoy his surroundings even though he is in the second tier G League with Long Island instead of the multi-billion dollar NBA is a trait replicated in Australia’s other band of NBA players.
Patty Mills was renowned for waving a towel for his teammates from the San Antonio Spurs’ bench before he eventually became a key member of the team.
Joe Ingles was beloved for his sense of humour and being a “glue guy” in the Utah Jazz locker room before he became one of the NBA’s deadliest three-point shooters.
Matthew Dellavedova put himself in hospital attempting to help LeBron James win a championship.
Ben Simmons is mercilessly criticised for passing to his Philadelphia 76ers teammates instead of attempting a jump shot or three-pointer for himself.
Creek was cut by the Brooklyn Nets in the pre-season and instead of whining he gladly joined the Long Island Nets and has been outstanding, averaging 13 points, eight rebounds and three assists as a starter for a team that has lost just one game.
He says he has received text messages and pats on the back from NBA general managers and players complimenting him on his play.
The expectation is an NBA team will offer him a 10-day contract in January and he will use the opportunity to earn a long-term deal.
He is not under contract to Brooklyn so could play for any NBA team.
“Being an NBA player isn’t just being about going out and scoring 30 points and signing a few autographs,” Creek said.
“It’s about trying to make the community as a whole and the team culture better and that’s why the Australian guys have done well because they go in there and care about the staff, whether it is the security guy at the front or the cooks in the back.”
He does not want to hear players complain the G League, with its commercial flights, bus trips, four games in five nights schedules and $US35,000 per season contracts, is a “grind”.
“I literally say to people, ‘This is a grind for you? If we were digging holes and shovelling crap on a farm somewhere and doing 14-hour days you could complain about the grind’.”
The NBA is his goal, but if it does not happen the 196cm guard/forward is willing to return to the NBL or give the NBA and G League another shot next year.
He wants to enjoy life and play against the best.
Making money is not his passion.
“I don’t want to play in Europe or Turkey and make $US1 million a year, play a 10-month season and get my ass kicked twice a day by a crazy Russian coach,” he said.
“That to me isn’t fun.
“I don’t want to spend my time in a cave thinking, ‘I wish I was home with my friends and family, but oh look how good my bank book looks’.
“I’d rather make half the money and play in Australia.”