If anybody knows Monta Ellis, it’s Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle.
Ellis was the starting shooting guard for the Mavericks the past two seasons, and was the team’s primary go-to player whenever they needed a clutch basket. In addition, last year Ellis led the Mavericks in scoring with 18.9 points per game, and steals (1.85), and also averaged 4.1 assists in a team-high 33.7 minutes per game.
Those figures were similar to the numbers Ellis put up for the Mavericks two years ago when he averaged 19 points and team highs of 5.7 assists, 1.72 steals and 36.9 minutes.
But Ellis opted out of his Mavericks contract this past summer and ultimately signed a four-year, $44 million free agent contract with the Indiana Pacers. It’s the same Pacers the Mavericks have to deal with when the two teams face each other at 6 Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Although he knows some of the nuances of Ellis’ game, Carlisle isn’t exactly thrilled about having to draw up Xs and Os in hopes of containing a player who he knows can put up huge numbers on any given night.
"He’s a real problem to deal with because of his quickness, his ability to get to the rim, his ability to make plays, his ability to get hot from the perimeter,’’ Carlisle said of Ellis after Wednesday’s shootaround. "Right now he’s scoring at about a 40-percent clip over the last five games from three, and that’s bad news for opponents.
"I have great respect for him, because he helped us win 99 games in two years and we wouldn’t have come closer without him. We’re really grateful for what he did for us and as always you’ve got to game-plan your butt off to get ready to play him.’’
Carlisle knows Ellis is averaging just 12.3 points per game – his lowest figure since his rookie campaign with the Golden State Warriors during the 2005-’06 season.
"He still looks great to me,’’ Carlisle said. "Their structure is a little bit different and they’ve got more ball handlers and stuff like that.
"He might not have the ball in his hands quite as much as he did with us, because he was our primary playmaker, but I don’t see his game falling off at all. He’s a tremendous player.’’
The Mavericks are expecting to be charged for tonight’s game.
"Obviously you don’t play against former players all the time, and obviously we know he’s going to be juiced up,’’ guard Devin Harris said. "It’s a tough team for us, matchup-wise, the way they play small.
"But it should be fun for us.’’
Carlisle noted that it’s difficult to replace a team’s go-to player, when that go-to player is a player of Ellis’ ability.
"You can’t pull guys like this off the streets,’’ Carlisle said. "He did a lot for our franchise for two years and got us in the playoffs, and really was a key guy for getting us in the playoffs for two years.
"He brings some really unique elements to the game that you miss when he’s gone.’’
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com