There has been a lot of talk recently about the future of Monta Ellis with the Warriors organization. The talk started to heat up following the Stephen Jackson trade, especially after the San Jose Mercury News’ Tim Kawakami reported that the Warriors had been calling teams and offering star guard Ellis in trade.
Ellis, who is averaging 19.7 points, 5.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds, has four years and $44 million remaining on his contract, but his youth and considerable talent should make him easier to trade than was Jackson.
According to Kawakami, the problem is a growing rift between Ellis and coach Don Nelson. Reportedly, there have been multiple public disputes between the two, including one after the Warriors’ 28-point loss to the Clippers on Nov. 6. Two sources told Kawakami that after the game, Ellis, a co-captain, “began loudly addressing … his teammates, telling them that this performance could not be tolerated. But then Nelson came into the room and told Ellis to be quiet. Speaking to reporters a few minutes later, Ellis was near-tears.”
Ellis and Nelson were involved in another verbal altercation after a practice in New York last week in which Nelson reportedly stormed out of practice.
So, what should the Warriors do? I have read with interest fellow blogger feltbot’s thoughts on the topic, and I thought I’d share them here. If you don’t read feltbot’s Warriors blog, you’re missing out. It’s an entertaining, thorough collection of Warriors news and opinion. The author of feltbot.com clearly wants Ellis gone and I’ll share some of his reasons from this post on his blog:
1) Monta Ellis is not Monta Ellis anymore. For whatever reason, he has not displayed the same quickness, burst or elevation since coming back from his moped accident.
2) Monta Ellis is not a leader. Anyone who watched him explode at the drafting of Stephen Curry, and then proceed to freeze Curry out in the early going, knows everything they need to know about the character of Monta Ellis. He has also been freezing out Anthony Morrow and Anthony Randolph, if my eyes don’t deceive me. And if you read between the lines of many of the lockerroom quotes this year, there appears to be quite a rift between Ellis and Randolph.
3) Monta Ellis is not a point guard. This is closely related to the failures already mentioned. But there is no indication that Ellis, even in a situation where he is happy, has the inclination or the basketball IQ to be a point guard.
4) Monta Ellis is a cancer. Like Stephen Jackson, Ellis has a beef with Warriors management that goes far beyond his problems with Nelson and the team. While Jackson was furious with the Warriors for dismantling the We Believe team, Monta’s beef is far more selfish. He has been furious with them ever since his suspension following the moped accident. There is no cure for this. He needs to go.
5) Trading Monta Ellis might bring some much needed balance to this roster. Like some of the “beef” we were promised by Riley.
6) The next Steve Nash is waiting in the wings. I know this sounds like hyperbole, but what I have seen of Stephen Curry has convinced me this is true. I cannot wait for Stephen Curry to be handed the keys to the Warriors’ franchise.
All very good points. If these things are all really true, it stands to reason that Ellis should be traded, and the sooner the better. But … I don’t think it’s the right move, and I’ll give you two reasons why the Warriors should wait on an Ellis trade.
1) Will the real Monta Ellis please stand up?
I really want to see what Ellis makes of himself now that Jackson is gone. I’ve shared this before, but I think Ellis is the kind of person who latches onto the strongest personality in a room, for better or worse. When he did it with Baron Davis, it was a good thing. When Davis left and Ellis latched onto Jackson, it was a very bad thing. Suddenly, the humble, likable Ellis Warriors fans loved turned into a bitter, surly, selfish player. So, now that Jackson is gone, who will Ellis latch onto?
In the absence of a clear leader on the team, will Ellis finally grow up and take ownership of his life and career? I think it’s worth waiting to see. In the two games since Jackson was exiled to Charlotte, Ellis is averaging 22.5 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals and the Warriors have played good basketball in respectable losses to the Cavaliers and Celtics. Ellis has also been a much more positive presence in the locker room after games. Check out what he told The Boston Globe following Wednesday’s game against the Celtics:
“I’m the leader. It starts with me. Everything starts with me. Making sure everybody gets involved in the game. Making sure everybody knows the plays. Making sure everybody starts the game off right. Yeah, that’s me. I’ve got to get that back into my head that I am the piece of the puzzle. I am the head leader. It all starts with me, so I’ve got to get everybody going, get this franchise back to who I know we can (be). … If we all just play together and stay together and just go out and play basketball, we can do some damage in this league.”
I love that. I don’t know if Ellis can be a leader of this team. But if he’s willing to change his attitude and try and be a better team player, I think he deserves a shot to see what he makes of himself without Stephen Jackson’s influence.
2. No fair! You ripped me off!
While it’s true that Ellis will be easier to trade than Jackson, it doesn’t mean the Warriors will get fair trade value for him right now. The news is already out that Ellis and Nelson have exchanged words, that Nelson doesn’t like Ellis, that Nelson wants Ellis gone, that Ellis is unhappy in Oakland, that Ellis and his agent are trying to get as far away from the Warriors as possible … and if we know about all of this, I guarantee you other teams’ management teams know about it, too. Do you think any GM in his right mind will offer a fair trade for Ellis now?
If the Warriors trade Ellis now, when it appears to fans, media and other teams that they are desperate to be rid of him, they’ll be lucky to get 50 cents on the dollar. Ellis is damaged goods until he proves otherwise, and regardless of his talent, no team is going to offer the kind of package that will make Warriors fans happy. I don’t think Ellis’ influence on the team is toxic like Jackson’s was, so the Warriors can afford to wait and try to help Ellis repair his image through his play on the court and his future interaction with the media (and fans). If Ellis really wants out, and Nelson really wants him gone, it is in everybody’s best interest to wait and try to get Ellis back to a place where he will have real value to other teams.
The trade deadline is February 18 this season. That gives the Warriors three months to see what they have in Ellis, and to hopefully increase the value of the trade offers they receive for Ellis. You could trade Ellis right now, but you’d probably end up with a deal slightly better, but similar to the Jackson deal. Or you can hope that Ellis will shape up and make himself more attractive to other teams. When he does that, Ellis is talented enough that he should be able to bring back nice talent to the Warriors.
So, the Warriors and their fans should be patient. Unless a can’t-miss deal finds its way into Larry Riley’s hands, the Warriors should let this process play out for a couple more months and see if they can maximize their return.