Can Monta Ellis accept a reduced role this season?

Before I put out my 2011 expectations for Monta Ellis, I wanted to analyze the latest news about Ellis, a much-talked-about interview he did with AOL Fanhouse’s Sam Amick (read the article here) in which he took responsibility for everything that has gone wrong in the past couple seasons between him and the Warriors. Sounds good, right? Sounds fantastic, right? I fear it’s fools gold. I liked a lot of what Ellis said. I think he has matured and I believe him when he talks about how his wife and child have helped him in that process. I believe he wants to make things right with Stephen Curry, his teammates and the Warriors. I love that he showed up to the Warriors’ practice facility in early September, several weeks before the official start of training camp. But again, something still feels off. Something’s not right.

I think the reason I can’t take this interview as seriously as I’d like to is because Ellis still considers himself the leader of this team.

Take a look at some of his comments from the article:

“A month before the season was over with, I really had to sit back and blame myself in a sense because I’m that leader; I’m the one who everybody feeds off of. Everything that went on last year (regarding Curry) shouldn’t have gone on. I blame myself.”

And:

“It starts with the captain of the team, the leader of the team, and that’s me. I just wanted to come in with a great mindset so I could have the other guys with a great mindset. Lead by example, try to get that bond, to get close, so we can approach the game the right way.”

Those comments, and many of the comments he made in the interview, are great. They show maturity. I don’t want to completely discount any progress Ellis has made in that area. But if he really considers himself the leader of this team, he’s in denial. It seems to me like Ellis is willing to take the blame, bury the hatchet and start anew with his teammates, including Curry, as long as he’s still No. 1, as long as they all respect him as the alpha dog of this team. But Curry is the one who picked this team up and carried it last season through the injuries and the rest of the gunk that surrounded this team last season. He’s the one who has gained the respect of his teammates. He is the unquestioned leader of this team.

If Ellis ever needed proof that his teammates don’t look to him as the leader or captain of this team, he only needs to look at something else he revealed in the same interview, that Curry and Devean George were the only teammates who showed up for his wedding last year. This team has one leader and it’s not Ellis. Until he accepts that completely, I worry that this chemistry experiment is doomed to fail.

Look at all the great teams in the NBA last season. I don’t care about non-playoff teams because that’s not what we want the Warriors to be. We want them to be in the company of the Lakers and the rest of the elite teams in the league. And those teams have one … unquestioned … leader. Look at the best teams in the Western Conference last season: Lakers (Kobe Bryant), Suns (Steve Nash), Mavericks (Dirk Nowitzki), Jazz (Deron Williams), Trail Blazers (Brandon Roy), Thunder (Kevin Durant), Spurs (Tim Duncan). Each of those teams have one unquestioned leader. There isn’t another player on any of those teams who would claim leadership of the team. They know who their leader is. If the Warriors want to be a legitimate team, they can’t have multiple players vying for top dog status. It can’t be leader-by-committee. Rarely has that approach worked in the NBA.

That player for the Warriors is Curry. I think every one of his teammates would agree, except for Ellis. I hope Ellis can accept that and embrace a smaller role on the team this season. Hopefully, his increased maturity and improved perspective will help him take that next step. The Warriors’ season might depend on it.