Q+A: Monta Ellis
An exclusive interview with the Warriors’ star guard.
On meeting with Mark Jackson, the new Warriors head coach, before the lockout:
It went great, man. He came in and talked about the changes that he wanted to make and what he expects out of the guys, and pretty much wanted to get the ball moving in the right direction. He came off pretty strong as we’re going to head in the right direction. It didn’t feel fake to me. That was the great thing about it, because I was in a position where I didn’t really know what to expect, but after that meeting, it really sharpened things up.
The conversation that we had, I think he’s going to bring a lot and it’s not just going to be him, it’s going to be with his coaching staff. You can just feel that they’re passionate about turning this organization around and not just to say something, just to blow smoke up somebody. They’re really trying to make a difference in trying to change the organization.
On Stephen Curry:
Most definitely [the Warriors have the best backcourt in the League]. I don’t see anybody else. Name them.
He’s (Curry) great, man. What, it’s going on his third year? He’s in a great position. If he just keeps working hard like he’s doing, he’s going to be all right. Everything else is going pave his way. He’s just got to continue to work hard, that’s all he needs to do and he’s been doing that. This is going to be his third year. This is when he’s really—really—going to set his foundation. So, I’m looking forward to that. But he’s been doing great. I mean, everybody goes through it your first two years, even sometimes, your third year. You go through it.
I talk to Steph. I just saw Steph last week. He’s going through his thing, he’s about to get married, so I talk to him a lot, just trying to let him know that there’s nothing scary about it. Just take your time, just breathe. That’s it. You’ve got different responsibilities. You can’t live single anymore. You’ve got to think about two, instead of just one. That’s all.
On David Lee:
David brings a lot to the table and that’s leadership, the ability to score the ball inside and outside, use both hands, rebound, really get out and run, can block shots at times. So, you pretty much have a solid four-man…he brought a lot to our organization and our team the past year.
On Dorell Wright:
That’s all it is. When you get the opportunity and you don’t have anybody harassing you or fussing at you about every little thing, you can just play basketball and it’s like high school ball again, where you’re going out there and you’re just playing, and that’s what he [Dorell] did.
Man, I don’t care nothing about no Mike Montgomery. But yeah, in a sense [Wright’s situation in Miami was similar to Ellis’ rookie year]. I don’t know because he was in Miami. My situation was different. I was in a situation where it was a college coach, his second year—really his first year because he came in halfway during the season—and it was really his first year. He didn’t really know how to coach men. He knows how to coach boys, but he didn’t know how to coach men. So, I was in a different position. I don’t know what type of position he was in. I don’t know if he was getting in trouble over there, we don’t know. But it probably was a different situation. But he got his opportunity when he came to the Warriors and that was the best thing because he’s young, just like I am. He got his opportunity and I’m glad it was now than later.
On Jerry West:
That part is out of my hands. I’m thankful and congratulated him that he’s on board and a part of the organization, but I just control what I can control. I’m just glad to have him on board.
On his relationship with Warriors management:
You’ve got to look at it. My increase from what I was making to what I’m making now, that’s the highest [salary] increase in NBA history. If anything, I thank them for giving me the opportunity because if they never gave me that money, I probably wouldn’t be the player I am now. Because I’m the type of player, when I get money, I like to prove the reason why you gave me this money. They’ve done that and I’ve been doing my part and like I said, we had our ups and our downs, but hey, you go through that and you just move on.
You try certain things and sometimes, it just doesn’t work. I feel like they went out and they tried to do what they felt like was best for the team and it just backfired. But hey, you live and you learn. If you didn’t try that, then you would have never known how it was if you tried to do it again. Let’s just look at it that was—you live and you learn—and it’s a business, man. I look at it like that, too.
I’ve had a lot of great vets around me. Derek Fisher to Baron Davis to Calbert Cheaney to Stephen Jackson, Al [Harrington], the list goes on. It’s been a bumpy, rocky seven years, but at the end of the day, I look at it [as] where I am today and where I could have been, two years from now.
I’ve always been a leader, even from high school. It’s just something I was born with. Even being the leader to my family and wanting to lead them to go the right way, and a leader to my son. So, it was always a role, a piece that God put in my life with so many blessings that he gave me and that was one of them. It’s not a transition to me, it’s just that I had to get back to it because coming from high school, being “The Man” and everybody looking up to you, then leaving from high school, going over here and have to wait to be the man. Then, everybody comes back and looking for you for that leadership, you just had to get used to it again, that’s all.
Because at the end of the day, they’ve been in the game a long time, so they understood the business and the game of it. It’s just like me. When I come in, I’m younger, then eventually I get older and somebody like Steph’s coming in. So, it’s the same thing, but they prepared me well and those guys always had my back and they always had good interests in me going the right way and getting my money the right way.
You’ve got guys like that [younger players who come to him for veteran advice]. You should. You’re coming into a business or you’re coming into a situation where you’re not familiar with it, then the best thing to do is act questions. It’s like being in the classroom. If a teacher is teaching and you don’t understand, the best thing to do is raise your hands. You’ve got guys like that and it goes back to being a vet. I can relate to them or I can tell them so much—I might be 25—but I can tell them so much because I’ve been on every angle, every side of it and I always put it out there. If you ever need to talk, call me. I’m nothing but a phone call away.
On entering the Draft out of high school:
I didn’t even know. I took a gamble. I took a gamble in coming out of high school and going to the NBA, trying to skip college. I took a gamble. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even know if I’d be able to play in the NBA. I’d just had knee surgery a couple months before the draft—before that pre-draft, all of that—I had surgery and all that, so I didn’t know where I was going to be or what I was going to be doing. So, I took a gamble. But when I set my goal that I was going to come to the NBA out of high school, that’s before I got in the ninth grade. I told my homeboy Marlon that I was going to the NBA out of high school when I was going into my freshman year and I didn’t see that reality come until the day I got drafted.
If you have a dream to be in the NBA, it shouldn’t matter where you go. Well, I’m going to say it mattered to me because I heard so many people tell me I was going to go here and I was going to go there. Because I didn’t understand the business of the game. I understood the basketball part—that’s easy because I’ve been doing that all my life—but coming into this big business, I didn’t know that part of the game. For me, when I saw my mom cry, the only thing that I could tell her was that, ‘It’s all right because I’ve got my foot in the door.’ That’s all I really wanted, was my foot in the door. I could have went the last pick in the NBA Draft. As long as I got my opportunity, that’s all that really mattered to me…because I knew the type of player that I was, I knew the work ethic that I had and I had already scoped the NBA out anyway. I watch basketball, so as long as I went to a great situation and I went in there with a clear mind, where I felt like it was just me, then that’s all I left Jackson with. With me and a good mind, then this is what I’m going to do to make it.