Just as sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the Dallas Mavericks know they can count on Monta Ellis.
Coach Rick Carlisle has handed in his starting lineup 68 games this season, and the only player whose name he has announced every time is Ellis. In essence, despite any injuries, illnesses or personal reasons going on in his life, Ellis has started in all 68 games this season.
And the nine-year veteran guard certainly hasn’t been 100 percent every game, either.
“I never thought he’d play in that Eastern trip before the [All-Star] break,” Carlisle said. “I didn’t think he was going to travel on the trip let alone play in the first game of the trip.”
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That’s the trip when the Mavericks played at Boston, Charlotte and Indiana from Feb. 9-12. Ellis had a strained right hamstring, and it appeared as though he was going to at least sit out the trip’s opener against the Celtics.
However, Ellis started and scored 11 points in 28 minutes against the Celtics. He then posted 16 points and seven assists in 32 minutes against Charlotte, and added 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists in 41 minutes when the Mavericks upset the Pacers 81-73.
In other words, if there’s a game to be played, Ellis is the proverbial gym rat who wants to play.
“Monta has it all when it comes to pain threshold,” owner Mark Cuban said. “He’s a warrior.
“You ask him how he’s feeling, he says I got you. You ask him if he’s hurt, he says I got you. I say you’re going to be in, I got you.”
Ellis has been all-in the past two games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Celtics, despite being under the weather. He had nine points and seven assists in a team-high 31 minutes during Sunday’s 109-86 win over the Thunder, and then contributed 17 points and seven assists in a team-high 37 minutes in Monday’s 94-89 victory over the Celtics.
“I feel good with the win, but I’m still having trouble breathing,” Ellis said after the victory over Boston. “I’m congested, but other than that I’m all right.
“I feel it at times, but I still have to go out there and do what I need to do. So I really try to block it out and just do whatever I need to do.”
Carlisle believes Ellis is determined to play all 82 games for not only the second year in a row, but for just the second time in his career. It’s sort of like a badge of honor.
“There are certain players that really view [playing all 82 games] as a big deal,” Carlisle said. “I wish more players did it.
“I think there’s a percentage of guys that really see the honor in the difficulty and the challenge of doing it. So we’re lucky he’s been a warrior like that for us because he’d be impossible to replace when he’s out of our lineup.”
Despite his illness, Ellis buried a key 3-pointer and a pair of crucial free throws in the waning moments to help the Mavericks hold on and defeat the Celtics. It’s just another moment when Ellis has been able to deliver in the clutch for the Mavericks, who have frequently given him the ball to run the offense with the game on the line.
“I like my role on this team, period,” Ellis said. “We’ve got a group of great guys that I enjoy playing with and we just feed off one another.
“At times it’s going to be a lot of guys that have to take big shots. But we just play together and make the right plays.”
Ellis and the Mavericks (41-27) hope to make the right plays again at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at American Airlines Center when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves (33-32).
At least the Mavericks know when Carlisle turns in his starting lineup, Ellis’ name will be somewhere on that piece of paper. Just call him Mr. Dependability.
“He’s in and that speaks volumes about him and that’s why fans love him everywhere he’s played,” Cuban said of Ellis. “That’s why he’s so loved [with his former team of] Golden State, because he’s a warrior and he doesn’t back down.”