Sometime middle of last season I wrote a blog about how Monta Ellis needs to be the man by letting Stephen Curry be the man. What I meant by that was Monta Ellis shouldered too much responsibility, either by Don Nelson’s request, who is now aft, or because Ellis felt the need to do so as he signed a large contract and subsequently missed an entire season to injury. And as a result, his efficiency took a dive and his angst of being a ‘Warriors’ resonated throughout most of last season.
Since then, he’s made strides to build a relationship with Stephen Curry. This has been covered extensively for several weeks now. Stephen Curry acknowledged that Ellis approached him and apologized for last year’s training camp remarks. Quite a big step from saying “can’t do it.” We’re not use to professional athletes owning up to mistakes and apologizing for them. Truth be told, I never saw it coming from Ellis. That’s why I’m writing this.
But the biggest change has got to be in Monta Ellis. Everything else seems periphery and logistical. For Monta Ellis, the longest tenured Warrior player along with Andris Biedrins, change happened within himself. To say all the other changes didn’t impact him would be negligent. Much of Ellis’ unhappiness stemmed from dysfunction, turmoil, and bad business decisions. But Ellis has ostensibly taken it upon himself to rein “change,” to lead by example (his own words), and to embrace the player he needs to be for his teammates instead of just being an employee of the Warriors collecting a check. Not that he was that type of player, but to me it seemed like he was trying really hard to justify his salary and lost sight of what type of positive impact he once made as innocent Monta.
It’s noticeable in the way Monta Ellis speaks now. He seems a bit more cerebral on his approach to basketball. Last season he had an aire of Mike Singletary, typically being dismissive and stand-offish. He didn’t want to speak of the past (i.e. didn’t want to answer anything questions about his moped accident). I don’t know if Ellis has been taking speech classes from David Lee, but I’ve never heard him speak with such maturity, thought and articulation. Perhaps it’s just the natural course of getting older (yet he’s still only 24). He’s married and has a child now and speaks of his family very highly. I don’t think Juanika Ellis would pass auditions for Basketball Wives.
There’s still a concern about Ellis despite him saying all the right things in a way we’re not use to hearing. Ellis enjoyed the best PPG average in his career at a great cost to efficiency. He made his team worse because he was a volume scorer—taking possessions away from his team—and a defensive liability. Still, he showed some signs of being a defensive stopper on bigger players and he showed that he was 100 percent back from his ankle injury.
And in defense of his inefficiency, there were too many variables that resulted in last year’s numbers to make a prediction on what type of impact he will have this year. Last year we had Curry’s rookie development, Ellis’ gradual acquiescence of his role as a shooting guard (not a point guard) which hasn’t fully been realized yet, and of course the utterly flawed and injured roster that assigned Corey Maggette as the de facto big man has since been overhauled.
Compound all of that by the misguidance coming from the front office that confused and angered Ellis, there were too many moving parts to say he will replicate his inefficiency this year. It’s a concern but there’s also hope because he’s been efficient in the past and there is “change.”
I’m proud to say Monta Ellis took my advice and became The Man. Not by being a big shot NBA star, but by humility, family, and acceptance.
(Okay, I doubt he read my blog piece but this helps my self-esteem for getting something right for once)