Ellis’ leadership is a work in progress—highly publicized moments, such as his comments regarding Stephen Curry before his new teammate even played an NBA game (these days, he views the Warriors’ backcourt as the League’s best: “Most definitely. I don’t see anybody else. Name ’em.”) and his infamous moped accident and subsequent 30-game suspension shortly after receiving a contract extension back in the summer of ’08 didn’t help matters—but constant changes in personnel, coaching staff and the front office, as well as trade rumors surrounding Ellis himself, haven’t exactly contributed to a culture of stability.
“I feel like they went out and they tried to do what they felt was best for the team and it just backfired. But hey, you live and you learn,” he says. “My [salary] increase from what I was making to what I’m making now (from under $1 million in each of his first three seasons on his rookie contract as a second-round pick to his current $11 million/year deal), that’s the highest 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.
“We’re in a great position to take another step. We just need to add us another solid big man that can score in the post down there and we’ll be all right. We don’t have to shake our team up—we’ve just got to add a little few pieces to what we’ve got. The new coaches, the ownership, everybody gets on the same page, and just go out there and see what it do. Put all the cards on the table,” Ellis continues. “I can’t speak [about] years from now…I’m not fitting to go ahead and talk about I want to demand a trade and do all this. Nah. If y’all trade me, y’all trade me. The one thing about it, I’m not going to go out and say, I want to be traded, I don’t like this. If I do, it’s going to be closed doors, it’s going to be private. But right now, I’m just focused on being a Warrior.”
Thus far in his short tenure, new Warriors head coach Mark Jackson has been adamant about two things: Golden State making the Playoffs and a desire to coach Ellis.
“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,” he recounts about the former All-Star point guard and TV analyst’s pre-lockout visit. “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.”
The franchise is ready to show local and national audiences something new, and so is its star player.
“I’ve got a couple tricks up my sleeve I might bring out for next season,” the AND 1-wearing Ellis says coyly. “I’m not going to say, but I’ve got a little something. It’s going to be a different—I guarantee you when I step on that court—it’s going to be a different Monta Ellis and everybody’s going to know it.”
Aggrey Sam covers the Chicago Bulls for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.