Ahh... That feels better.
Honestly, I never really understood all the hate that Dunleavy got from Warriors fans during and after his time in the Bay, but on a night that was more about emotion than basketball I thought I'd let myself indulge a bit. Truth time: I was a fan of the trade, but it was hard to see Monta Ellis in a Milwaukee Buck uniform tonight. It was hard to see Steph Curry and Andrew Bogut in street clothes on the bench, knowing I'd have to wait until next season to see what this team was capable of. It was hard to watch Mike Dunleavy bury the already wounded Warriors in the fourth quarter. It was hard to listen to Bob Fitzgerald... but hey, it's always hard to listen to Bob Fitzgerald. Jump for some more emotional responses.
Maybe it was the emotional homecoming of Monta, or maybe it's the feeling that our season is over setting in, but I don't really feel like doing any actual game analysis. So, let's toss out the game notes and talk about our feelings. I'm about to get all vulnerable and stuff.
- The Return of Monta Ellis - Anyone who's followed my writing knows that, while I've enjoyed watching him play, I've been critical of Monta's defense, shot selection, and overall offensive efficiency over the last few seasons. I have supported the idea of trading him, and I was pleased with the team landing a big man of Bogut's quality when they did finally trade him. Having said all that, I was a little surprised at my reaction to tonight's game. It started when he was announced in the Bucks starting line-up and I heard how intense the ovation from the crowd was, but the real surprise came just before tip-off. I watched as Ellis made his way down to the end of the Warriors bench acknowledging his former teammates, but he didn't stop there. He walked to the baseline picked up his son and gave him a kiss like he often would at home games, and it was right then that I remembered that Monta and his family had just been thrown a curve ball that would uproot them from the community they had grown to be a part of and force them to make a fresh start in Milwaukee. Now I'm not usually one to feel sorry for millionaire athletes, but the moment was real and touching. I'll be honest, I got a little choked up. I didn't quite shed a tear, but it was touch and go there for a minute. I think it's silly to draw any conclusions about Monta's basketball future from this one game, so I'll just say that I truly wish him and his family the very best. There were some good times, and he won't be forgotten around here anytime soon.
- Lost in the Shuffle: The Ekpe Udoh Story - In three days Udoh went from joking around with Dominic McGuire at practice to getting viciously dunked on by him in a game. The poor kid's head must still be spinning. Most of the people who really pay attention to this team were quick to say that losing Ekpe in the Bogut trade stung. I've been thinking of Udoh as one of the very few bright spots in the Warriors franchise for the past year or so, and the weird part is, now I can feel myself forgetting about this guy already, and that bums me out. Ekpe Udoh does a lot of great things on the basketball court, but you really have to pay attention to notice most of them. I worry that the rest of Udoh's career could go by without anyone ever really paying attention. Again, I wish him the best, and I think if there was ever a guy who seemed built to flourish under Scott Skiles it's Ekpe Udoh. Good luck Ekpe!
A New Hope - I've tried to stay somewhere between healthy skepticism and cautious optimism when it comes to the new ownership group and front office as time goes by and they slowly build their own track record, independent of the Cohan era. Yes, there have a been a few decisions that have moved the needle a little further to either extreme, but I've mostly maintained a wait and see approach when it came to passing judgment on Lacob and company. I have to say that after the work they did at the trade deadline, essentially sending away Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh for a legit franchise cornerstone at center, a useful (if a bit old and overpaid) wing and a first round pick, I can't help but feel hope creeping in. Hope that the people running my favorite NBA team might indeed have what it takes to turn the Golden State Warriors into a consistently relevant NBA franchise. They have shown a willingness to spend the extra money to gain a competitive advantage by purchasing an extra second round pick in two consecutive drafts. They have shown an ability to learn as they go, as evidenced by shifting their strategy from a free agency focus to one more centered around the draft and trade market after coming up empty in their search for a free agent center this last offseason. They have shown that they are not afraid to make bold moves that focus more on basketball than public relations by trading away an extremely popular player in Monta Ellis for a player that will unfortunately make no immediate impact but may very well help make this team a legitimate force to be reckoned with in the coming years. What can I say? I think they are slowly making me a believer.
- There's always next year - As a Warriors fan, the feeling of looking hopefully forward to next season is not an unfamiliar one. Most years the hope that next season might be different was really all we had as fans to keep us coming back. Still, as jaded as that may have made me, I can't help but think this time will in fact be different. Watching Andrew Bogut's press conference, interviews, and guest appearance on the game broadcast got me extremely excited. Having a center whose only weakness on the court is that he might only be a decent option on offense is going to take some getting used to. The Warriors have never had a big man this complete during my time following the team, and it's taking every ounce of patience I have to wait until next season to watch Bogut, Curry and Lee form what could be the first playoff worthy core we've seen since the brief wonder of We Believe.
I gave Monta the WW on the night he was traded, and I'm doing it again here. If there was one thing that Monta did best in his time here it was fill Warriors fans with wonder as he seemed to routinely make the impossible possible. I may have had my fair share of complaints about Monta's game, but I'm choosing to remember him as the player that brought me to my feet and took my breath away more times than I can recall. Thanks for the memories Monta!