Q+A: Monta Ellis

by Aggrey Sam / @csnbullsinsider

For the new issue of KICKS, I spent a sweltering day last month with Warriors guard Monta Ellis (and his family) at his sprawling estate in a gated community about 45 minutes outside of Memphis. In a wide-ranging interview—really more of a conversation—we talked about a variety of topics, from his thoughts on Golden State’s coaching hire to how marriage has changed his outlook on life.

Even though it was for a cover story, I didn’t have the space to fit everything into the piece, which is out now in New York and will be available everywhere else next week, so I figured during these dog days of August and the NBA lockout, readers might be interested in learning a little more about the high-scoring Jackson, MS, native.

On his status within the League:

[All-Star snubs] never did [make a difference] to me anyway.

The only thing I know is they (Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade) respect my game just as much as I respect theirs and that’s the only thing that matters. As long as they know when they come on that court and they tie their shoes up against me that we’re going to go toe to toe, it’s going to be a barn-burner, there isn’t any backing down, none of that. It’s just going to be us and the best team wins.

No, I don’t [get enough credit for being an all-around player]. It is what it is. That can’t stop me. I’ve always been looked at as this person or looked at as that person, or did this and did that, or can’t do this and can’t do that. I don’t really listen to it. I’m going to do what I need to do. People know that I play defense. Do they give me credit? No. Do I care? No. At the end of the day, I’m still going to go out there and do what I need to do. You can’t not play defense. You go look at the stats for the last five years, you can’t be in the top three—I’m not saying the top five—in steals for the last five years and not play defense. [Rajon] Rondo and Chris Paul have been there, in that same realm, but you say they play defense. But when it comes to me, I can’t play defense. I don’t let it bother me. Out of everything, I let it motivate me.

I’ve got a couple tricks up my sleeve I might bring out for next season…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.

On his lack of name recognition, despite his numbers:

You can say that because, for one, I’m playing for a West Coast team and being in the East or being here (the South), it’s a two or three-hour [time] difference. When I’m playing basketball, people are sleeping or kids are getting ready to go to school, so I can agree with you in a sense.

I’m known more than people think and not more than I should be, but more than you would think.

It’s good to have the respect from your peers and everything, but I just go out there and try to do whatever I can do to help my team win. It really doesn’t matter if they acknowledge it or not and I’m going to continue to do what I have to try to do to get over that hump, and eventually, one day, they will.

I don’t really think about it like that. I don’t think stats-wise—I just go out and play basketball. Me playing basketball, my game’s going to speak for itself. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. The only thing that I know is I know that I went out there every night and left it on the court. That’s all that I can ask for. I did everything that I can possibly do.

That’s it. By any means necessary. Whatever I need to do. That’s how I see it.

On being undersized:

I’ve been doing that all my life. When I was playing with my oldest brother, I was usually playing with the kids in his age group. My oldest brother is five years older than me. So, I used to play with kids in his age group. I never played with the kids in my age group, even when I was in middle school. When I was in middle school, I worked out with the high school kids. When I was in high school, I worked out with Mo [Williams] and them, when they were in college. When I was in high school, going up to my last two years, my junior and senior years, I was working out with Mo and them. They were in the NBA. So, I always worked out with the older guys. I never worked out with my age group or younger.

It was easy because I always faced that, my whole life. I was always the smallest one on the court. Always. Even in high school. Always.

On the Warriors’ future:

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 alright. We don’t have to shake our team up—‘We’ve got to make these changes’—no, we don’t. 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.

I can’t speak [about] years from now. Just have to wait and see. I’m not fitting to go ahead and talk about I want to demand a trade and do all this. No. 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, you’ll never know about it. If I do, do that. But right now, I’m just focused on being a Warrior for the next two, three years, however many years I’ve got left on my contract and go from there.

Winning an NBA championship. That’s it. That’s my goal. Everything else plays itself out.