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  • Jan

    Monta Ellis will return Friday, Warriors say: Five things to watch

    By Geoff Lepper

    OAKLAND — Not much upstages LeBron James these days, but the Warriors managed it Thursday, announcing on their Web site that Monta Ellis will return Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    After one moped accident, two surgeries, hundreds of hours of rehab, six practices and one critical meeting to discuss the six-year, $66 million contract that he placed in jeopardy, Ellis is set to step back onto the floor at Oracle Arena.

    Warriors coach Don Nelson said on KNBR that Ellis will start Friday — presumably alongside Jamal Crawford — at the point and expects him to log somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes.

    “I was very concerned that he would maybe never be the same player again, because it was a very severe ankle (injury) — he severed two tendons in his ankle, and they had to surgically repair them and put pins in them and a whole bunch of stuff — and I was thinking he may never be the same again, but I can assure you that he will be,” Nelson said. “I’m watching him in practice and he’s coming back way faster than I thought. . . . I think he’ll be the same Monta we’ve grown to love and enjoy watching.”

    Ellis only began practicing in 5-on-5 drills nine days ago, but has long felt that his ankle was 100 percent physically and that it was merely a matter of getting into basketball shape. In a sign of his anxiousness, he famously yelled, “Let me play!” after dunking at the Warriors’ shootaround Wednesday morning.

    One assumes that Ellis’ agent, Jeff Fried — who met with team officials on Monday — received adequate assurances that the Warriors will no longer threaten to void his client’s contract, something team president Robert Rowell and the organization have been holding over Ellis ever since announcing a 30-game suspension in October. It’s hard to see how Ellis returns without that weapon being holstered for good.

    (8:17 p.m. UPDATE, Jan. 22: Apparently, one shouldn’t assume that. Tim Kawakami reports that Fried says the team still claims it holds that right, despite the fact that the Warriors have already clawed back $3 million via the 30-game suspension.)

    It’s also interesting to note that Thursday morning, just hours before Ellis’ return was announced, Rowell and executive vice president Chris Mullin were sitting next to one another on the floor at the team’s practice facility long after the team session was over, watching Ellis go one-on-one with various opponents.

    Nelson said the final decision was made by a consensus that included Mullin, Rowell, assistant general manager Larry Riley, doctors and the team’s training staff. It was a change from the team’s previous plan, which was to have Ellis make his debut against the Los Angeles Clippers and former Warriors star Baron Davis over the weekend.

    “I thought he’d play Sunday,” Nelson said. “That’s what I had heard. But Mully’s been to our practices and watched him play the last four practices, probably, and I think decided that he was ready. He wasn’t favoring it, and what’s the difference between Friday and Sunday. That’s what Monta asked me, and I said, ‘I don’t know, but it’s not our decision.’”

    Now that the decision has been made, here are five things to watch, beginning Friday:

    1) How has Ellis’ game changed since April 16, when he was last seen wearing a Warriors uniform?

    Part of this, obviously, is simply a check to make sure he is fully healthy. Can he plant and cut like he used to? Can he outsprint the opposition for easy hoops? Can he spring as high off the floor without warning, opening himself up for that lethal 16-foot jumper?

    “I could do whatever I could do before I left,” Ellis said last week. “It’s over with. Done. I did everything to get it strong. I can’t worry about (the ankle) because once I worry about that, that ain’t gonna do nothin’ but hurt it again. So just go out and just play basketball. Whatever happens, happens.”

    But there are other things to examine as well. Ellis reportedly was working on adding a 3-pointer to his arsenal over the summer, before his inner “Quadrophenia” took hold. Does he have that added range, or has that all gone by the wayside? Also Ellis has never played without Davis on the Warriors’ roster. Can he be the facilitator that the team was envisioning after Davis’ departure?

    “I think Monta will force us to play faster,” Nelson said. “If not, we’re going to have a one-man fast break, because he’s going to definitely push it up. That’s just what he does. It’s the way I like to play, anyway, so I encourage it. He needs somebody to run with him.”

    2) How will Ellis and Crawford mesh together?

    Ever since Crawford’s arrival, team officials have been playing up the idea that this could be a backcourt pairing for the foreseeable future, despite the fact that they seem to be more duplicates of each other than complimentary players. Crawford will be shadowing shooting guards when he plays alongside Ellis, which will put his defensive-remake-in-progess under even more pressure.

    “I just can’t wait for us to play aside each other and see how it goes,” Ellis said.

    3) Where do Ellis’ minutes come from?

    The days of Kelenna Azubuike regularly approaching 40 minutes in a game should be at an end. C.J. Watson’s numbers will likely dip as well. And you also could easily see Brandan Wright (when he returns from the dislocated shoulder) pushed further into the background as Nelson uses Jackson at the 3 and 4 and Corey Maggette at the 4 to free up space for Ellis.

    4) Who takes over in the fourth quarter?

    This might be the most interesting aspect of all. In the space between Davis’ opting out and Ellis’ injury, it was clear that Ellis was going to be the leading option, with Jackson running second.

    Now, however, the team has Jackson, Crawford and Maggette all vying to be hero in the final period. Certainly, the newcomers acknowledge Ellis’ talent, but will it be that easy for them to give up the rock?

    5) How will this effect the Warriors’ record?

    It will help the team’s winning percentage, but that will actually be a net loss for the club in the long term.

    Although some Warriors have been mentioning playoff possibilities in recent days as Ellis’ return has grown closer, that’s a pipe dream.

    The average No. 8 seed in the Western Conference over the last 10 years has won 44 games. (Never mind the fact that the Utah Jazz, current holders of the No. 8 position, are on pace to win 48.)

    To get to 44 wins, the Warriors would have to go 31-8 to close the season, a winning percentage of 79.5 percent. That would even outpace Golden State’s mad rush to finish the 2006-07 season, which netted the last playoff berth on the final day of the regular season.

    So every extra victory that Ellis brings in over the next 2 1/2 months is actually going to push the club further down in the 2009 draft lottery.

    Contact: geofflepper@48minutes.net

28 Responses to “Monta Ellis will return Friday, Warriors say: Five things to watch”

  1. Nuck Chorris- Dr. Fegan

    Rowell is evil.

  2. We have a curious problem of addition by subtraction. We essentially have too many scorers with defensive liabilities: Ellis, Crawford, Maggette, (Watson)…

    We can’t keep all of those guys and win. The biggest reason why is that they’re each legitimately terrible defenders. Awful. Can’t stress that enough. They each have a bunch of nice qualitites, but still…

    Jack, Buke, Belinelli - these are guards/wings that can defend, so they can stay regardless of who has to go. Only Jack is a ballhog of these 3, and I think he’s shown that if the team can score without him he’ll hold back and be more selective. And, despite what some dumb fans think, he really is a quality defender.

    Of course, we also STILL have the problem of needing a PF. While Wright looked like he was putting his game together for the first time before he got that shoulder injury, we’ll need to see him do it consistently to feel good about it. I’m doubtful that day will come. Randolph looks good too, but more as a wing and less as a true 4. Also, he’s terrible at defense right now and struggles to make good choices and avoid silly mistakes.

    Then there’s the 5s - Biedrins and Turiaf. I think they’re solid but we still need more depth here.

    All this seems to lead to the exceedingly obvious need to trade a guard or two for a big or two. Isn’t this exceptionally obvious? Hasn’t this been the case since last year? Didn’t the problem only grow once we found out Belinelli wasn’t a bust, this kid Morrow’s secretly the best shooter on the team, and then gave up a 3/4 (Harrington) for another guard in the Crawford trade?

    Please - Warrios brass - whoever you are - LET’S GET A POWER FORWARD.

  3. “So every extra victory that Ellis brings in over the next 2 1/2 months is actually going to push the club further down in the 2009 draft lotte”

    F the draft.

    GSW franchise has to stop losing. If the team can turn the season around with Ellis we’d be a better destination for FA’s and trades for players will be more favorable come the summer.

    The GSW never did well with good NBA draft picks. Dropping a few slots with a strong finish to 2008-9 is far better.

  4. I agree with JoeSez: you play, you play to win, and you play for the present.

    I am not for tanking since the lotto has not been nice to the Warriors.

    I do agree with evaluating the team until the end of the season and making changes that make sense, but not to change for change sake.

    Lastly, I hope the Warriors do not give up on Wright and Randolph: if we do, we might as well fold the team the very same day.

  5. It was a motorcycle.

  6. This years draft sucks. It reminds me of 2006. Griffin is a beast but after that… we can get just as good a player at #13 than at #5.

  7. If we can get Monroe out of Georgetown he’d be great. He can run, rebound, play D, pass, shoot the 3… We’d probably have to trade down to get to him though.

  8. Question #5 should be “affect” not “effect”. Sorry, just gets to me. But I’m excited to see Monta return!

  9. Can we get a difference maker at 14?

  10. Geoff, warriors.com gametime preview says, “Kelenna Azubuike (sprained left ankle) is day-to-day.”

    Did he hurt it in practice? Man, the Warriors injury woes continue. Do you know if Andris will be able to play or is he still a game time decision?

  11. SWT: He did it during the Oklahoma City game, although I don’t know when.

    Andris is listed as probable, as is C.J. I would expect both to play.

    Anthony Randolph was ill and not at practice on Thursday, so he’s also a question mark.

    Didn’t get an update on Marco. Check back tomorrow at noon for the shootaround report.

  12. Traj: Giving up Wright and Randolph for Bosh would be having an “all-star in the hand vs two in the bush”.
    That’s #8 and #14 pick for a young top 4 lottery player playing at the all-star level.

    Yahoo sports sez Colangelo considers Bosh untouchable and is trying to trade other players to build a core.

    Joe Sez GM’s always posture to the press. Colangelo can’t keep Bosh in Canada with a losing team, high taxes (paid for every home game) and a trip through customs every road trip. Best to trade him now for our talented forwards and useful vet, Maggatte. Otherwise Bosh will leave in 2010 and tarding him the year his contract ends means he’ll get less in return.

  13. [...] Monta Ellis will be back in the starting lineup and play 20 to 30 minutes for the Warriors on Friday. We have no choice but to wait and see how [...]

  14. -Coangelo isn’t moving Bosh unless he gets a randsom in return ( top 5 pick and an up and coming player) . He is going to do his best to put another star next to him and do damage in the playoffs. O’Neils contract along with Bargiani and the combo of a few role players ( Moon, Graham,Parker) might get them a Mcgrady/Marion/Nash/Brand/Howard to pair with Calderon and Bosh. There is a better chance they move him in the summer- but for us- it would take a guy like Biedrens to get it done.
    -Tank job isnt going to help us this year. We need to win and develop Wright and Randolph while exploring a way to unloard Maggette or Jack along with one other to get a #2 man in return.
    -The draft isnt going to have much in the way of big’s after Griffen BUT, it is chalk full of point guards. With Crawford and Ellis both haveing some Point skills, having a true PG on the roster is our 2nd biggest need. A lot of interesting names out there: Teague, Mills, Curry, Rubio, Lawson etc….
    -Looking at the play of Westbrook, Augustin and the potential of Bayless, I can say that had we known about Baron leaving- one of those guys would have ended up here and made a big difference from a balance and position standpoint.
    -See this link for a very interesting article with Nelson… Some very guarded comments about Mullin in there…

  15. M.Squared:”Coangelo isn’t moving Bosh unless he gets a randsom in return ( top 5 pick and an up and coming player) . He is going to do his best to put another star next to him and do damage in the playoffs. ”

    - That’s every muddling team’s strategy right now. Add another star and make a playoff run.
    Sure he wants a ransom for Bosh, all GMs want the moon but the 19th is the last day Colangelo can trade Bosh at maximum value. Next year Bosh can opt out so his value drops.
    Reports say McHale turned down way better deals than Angie’s offer the year prior. McHale held on too long. If it’s to the 18th and Bosh’s agent see’s no progress Colangelo maybe pushed.

    - Randolph’s height would have been too hard to pass even if Mullin knew BD was gone. We’d gone differently with the #2 round pick and gotten a PG. You can find an Duhon, Arenas or Ellis in 2nd round but rarely a big man. At 14, Randolph was a good pick.

  16. Is dropping a few slots to finish with a better record worth it for this team?

    Isn’t that what the team did during the Jrich-Murphy-Dunleavy days? We would suck royal ass in the first half of the season and then make a run in the latter half to inspire false hope among the fan base.

    Rowell and co. will easily meet their quota to re-up on season ticket holders while the fans will have to sit through another season of the same flawed team.

    With a high draft pick, we can at least target a player who can lead this team. As much as Ellis and Biedrins gets paid, they aren’t leaders. We need a young guy that has the talent and the charisma to lead this franchise forward. The only way that is going to happen is if we’re high enough in the draft to pick the guy, whoever it may be.

  17. When can we trade Jackson’s lazy a$$?

  18. I disagree on that one, Joe. With those players in reach and a hole at the point- I gotta think that 6-9 guys barely out of high school are easier to find than a starting 1. Doubt anyone really knew that Arenas or Ellis would be the players they are which is why GS should get zero credit for drafting them. Lots of tall “talented” projects can be grabbed in the late 1st - 2nd round.
    Bosh stays until he informs them that they have no chance to resign him.

  19. jaxfor3: Dunleavy was the third guy taken after Yao Ming and Jay Williams. Tanking means nothing with how the GSW draft.

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