As with pretty much everything with Monta Ellis, the thought of the Warriors trading him for an oft-injured big man and an extraordinarily flawed, past his prime wing leaves me feeling conflicted. Conflicted is so often the name of the game with Monta. Ellis was always a contradiction, simultaneously overrated and underrated. He is blessed with enormous talent, incredible "blow-by" quickness, a quick release, and excellent court vision, yet more often than not his teams did better with him on the bench. He was labeled a shoot-first gunner, yet he was near the top of the league in teammates’ shooting percentage from his passes. He was considered an attitude problem, yet always seemed to give his all on the court, was never ejected from a game, and rarely got technical fouls.
Even amongst Warrior fans, he was divisive. Arguments over whether his gaudy traditional stats, always near the league lead in points per game and steals per game, meant more than his advanced stats which often showed him as having a negative impact on his team. He had a penchant for making jaw dropping plays that seemed to defy the laws of physics and hit huge shots in crunch time, but also never saw a fade-away 18-footer with a hand in his face that he didn’t like.
Monta Ellis’s history and legacy with the Warriors is also a conflicted and confused ordeal. He was considered one of the top high-school players in the nation, but concerns over his position and conditioning caused him to fall to the second round of the draft. As a second round pick for the Warriors, once he was able to get on the floor after starting the year injured, Ellis quickly became a fan favorite with his ability to get to the rim and provide energy.
Over the next two years, Ellis went from fan favorite, high energy sixth man to integral part of the team. In his sophomore season, he played an integral part of the Warriors "We Believe" run, standing in for injured starting shooting guard Jason Richardson for much of the season. He may have been too good in that role, as it lead to the unpopular decision of trading Richardson that offseason. Ellis, however, continued to improve his game being a top contributor for the Warriors the next year, playing on one of the best teams ever to not make the playoffs. Ellis’s February during that season was particularly impressive, averaging 26 points on .602 shooting to go with 4.8 assists and 4.7 boards.
However, Ellis’s success may have again caused an unpopular decision by the Warriors, signing the young Ellis to a large extension, thinking he could be a future point guard, while allowing current point guard Baron Davis to walk. Monta followed this up with the infamous "Moped-gate," injuring his ankle riding a Moped then lying about it, missing most of the season in the process. The following season, Monta found himself with a new point guard next to him whom he claimed he wouldn’t be able to win with. Those comments, and the Warriors play in general, set off two seasons of questionable chemistry between the Warriors two guards, and losing records for the team.
I’ve probably spent way too much of the past 7 years thinking about Monta Ellis and what he means to the Warriors. I’ve written about him a lot on this site. I’d guess the majority of my 683 comments on this site were in some way about Monta, and my conflicted feelings about his place on the Warriors. I will miss watching him, and his jaw dropping ability, but I won’t miss worrying about how he fits into the team and if he’ll ever take this team to the next level. It should come as no surprise that his now former teammates went from shock and confusion, to blowing out the Kings, creating a perfect microcosm for Monta's conflicted time with the Warriors.
The one thing I know for sure is that this Friday’s game just got a whole lot more interesting.
Monta Ellis - 46 points against Houston (via outsidethenba)