Ellis makes strong case for NBA All-Star nod
OAKLAND – Monta Ellis is putting up 30-point games at such a pace he’s drawing comparisons to greats like Allen Iverson. He’s also making quite a case to earn the Golden State Warriors their first All-Star nod since Latrell Sprewell 13 years ago.
“He’s more powerful in some ways than Iverson was,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “I don’t know if he’s a scorer like Iverson yet, but he’s working on it. He’s still so young.”
While Ellis has all the impressive numbers to make him an All-Star, the big question is whether he can beat out other top guards in the Western Conference whose teams have far more wins.
Ellis is averaging 25.9 points per game for a young Warriors team that sits at 11-26, but everybody around this franchise knows there would be even fewer W’s without Ellis.
When disgruntled swingman Stephen Jackson finally left town in a trade with Charlotte in November, Ellis quickly took the reins for a club that desperately needed someone to do so.
“It’s really just coming to me,” Ellis said. “I’m trying to get everybody involved, get myself going.”
His teammates are campaigning for Ellis to be the team’s first All-Star since 1997.
“All-Star status,” Ronny Turiaf said. “There is nothing else to say, no other way to describe it. He’s playing at such a high level. I’m going to be in Dallas to watch him.”
Ellis has four 30-point games in his last six outings and has hit that number in 15 of 28 games since Jackson was traded Nov. 16.
“Monta Ellis is one of those untalked-about stars, but I’d like to put him in the top seven guards,” Cleveland’s Shaquille O’Neal said. “He’s a great player.”
Ellis signed a lucrative $66 million, six-year deal after he averaged a career-best 20.2 points during the 2007-08 season. He then sustained a serious ankle injury that summer on his motorized scooter and missed most of the season. It cost him a 30-game suspension without pay, because he wasn’t supposed to be riding such a vehicle.
He returned to average 19 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 25 games.
It was a tough year, but Ellis is so important to the Warriors that coach Don Nelson and general manager Larry Riley flew to Memphis to visit him during the offseason. The aim: to reiterate what he meant to this tough-luck franchise.
Still, the guard arrived at training camp somewhat disgruntled, questioning whether he and top draft pick Stephen Curry could coexist in the backcourt. Ellis later backed down and now’s he having his best season yet.
During the summer, Ellis became a father to Monta Jr., so he’s clearly thriving at work and home.
“He’s a very talented player,” Cavaliers superstar LeBron James said. “To be able to come back from the injuries that he had with the motorcycle accident is unbelievable. His work and the determination to come back and do what he’s been doing for this team, and for him individually, has been great.”
Yet there are those who believe the Warriors’ lack of success will hurt Ellis’ chances of being an All-Star. Golden State is second-to-last in the talented Western Conference and still doesn’t have a three-game winning streak this season.
“I don’t think about the All-Star (vote),” Ellis said. “If it happens, it happens. If it don’t, I’ll continue to do what I can to help turn this organization around and help our team win.”
There’s no denying Ellis is a game-changer.
His 37-point performance in a 103-99 victory over the Celtics on Dec. 28 was his third straight game with 30 or more points.
“He basically had his way with us tonight,” Boston guard Ray Allen said afterward.
Ellis converted two free throws with 2.3 seconds left and rallied his team back from an early 18-point deficit in that win – and that’s just one example of his late-game heroics.
“He’s just tough. He’s a heck of a scorer, he’s athletic as heck,” Rivers said. “I think a lot of people think he’s a shooter. He’s more of a scorer in my opinion. He slashes and beats you to the basket. He does make the 3. He’s a bona fide scorer.”
It’s clear everybody around the Warriors has finally moved past Ellis’ tumultuous season a year ago and is thankful to have his steady production now.
“He’s really being a true leader now, especially when we need points,” center Andris Biedrins said. “He’s willing to take the responsibility and take the tough shots. He’s just being more aggressive. He knows when we need a bucket and he can (take over). He’s that good.”
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