Monta Ellis provides the Dallas Mavericks with hope.
Hope that they’ve located another potential All-Star to pair with perennial All-Star Dirk Nowitzki. Hope that they’ve found someone so fast that he can sprint out and score on his own 1-on-2 fast break.
Hope that he could be the next big thing for the Mavericks once Nowitzki decides to retire.
One reason owner Mark Cuban decided to fork over $25,080,000 to Ellis over a three-year period in free agency this past summer is because of his potential long-term impact on the franchise. That, and the hope that he can help bring the Mavericks back to NBA prominence.
“If Monta is a lead playmaker like he has been, he’s a cornerstone piece,” Cuban said. “It’s a lot easier to find shooters than it is to find someone who can get to the rim and create shots for other people.”
The book on Ellis is that the 6-foot-3, 185-pound shooting guard has the uncanny ability to get to the rim with blazing speed and create shots for others, or for himself. He is ballet-like with his moves and the ability to penetrate defenses.
“Monta has been consistent ever since I got off the phone with him when he agreed to come,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He just said, ‘Hey, I want to come to Dallas and I want to be a part of winning.’
“He knows he’s going to have to carry a load for us with playmaking and scoring, but his attention to detail on defense has been very good. The thing he’s impressed me with is he’s rebounded well — and he goes after that ball — and that’s big, because we need to get up and come up with an extra defensive rebound or two per game and he can help us with that.”
Ellis, who has averaged 11 points and 6.8 assists in six preseason games, is excited about this new chapter in his life following a couple of bumpy rides over the past two years. When the Mavericks went hard after Ellis — Carlisle even paid a visit to him at his home in Houston — it’s no question Ellis knew where he was going to continue his basketball career.
“It makes you feel good and I think I owed it to myself, and everybody who I did this for, to re-invent myself,” Ellis said. “Coming to a great organization like this really got me back grounded, and really got me back to loving the game of basketball again and just me excited to want to play again.
“So I think coming here was a great decision for me and I can’t wait for it to start.”
Although Ellis repeatedly said he’s put the misery of the past two seasons in his rearview mirror, he can’t help but reflect on the past.
A cornerstone with Golden State — the Warriors drafted him out of high school in 2005 — until 2012, Ellis felt a bit disrespected when the Warriors traded him to the Milwaukee Bucks on March 13, 2012. It wasn’t necessarily the trade itself that perturbed Ellis, but that he found out about the trade on TV.
For a player who averaged more than 20 points in three seasons for the Warriors, he expected to be more respected. And that had Ellis off-balance last season with the Bucks.
“It started way in Golden State before I even got to Milwaukee,” he said. “But those days are behind me, I’m a Mav now and I want to look forward and not look back. I don’t have to prove anything. The only thing I’ve got to do is come out here and help this team win. That’s it.”
The Mavericks are salivating at the notion of a virtual two-man game between Ellis and Nowitzki.
“I knew he could score, but I’m impressed with his ability to make plays for others,” Nowitzki said. “He gets in there, he stays under control, he finds the roll man or the shooters, in transition he’s great, and when nobody’s there he attacks the rim and finishes around the basket.
“I always knew he was a great driver, but he’s passing, he’s guarding, he’s chasing people off the picks, he’s helping on the weak side, he’s rebounding, so he’s playing an amazing floor game. If he keeps that up, I think we’re going to be in good shape.”
Carlisle likes that Ellis has an edgy side to him that borders on cockiness.
“Monta has been really competitive and really solid and I’ve really liked everything that he’s done,” Carlisle said. “We’re thrilled to have him here, and he’s going to help us.
“He’s going to do better as we go along. There are things that he’ll learn about our system and our situation, but so far his playmaking and his speed is a dimension I haven’t seen with this team since I’ve been here.”