Warriors Monta Ellis is All the Way Back

Monta Ellis

If you follow the NBA, you've probably heard a lot of different things about Warriors guard Monta Ellis.

You probably know that Ellis was a budding star before injuring his left ankle in an offseason moped accident. And you likely remember that the Warriors fined Ellis $3 million for the transgression, and still claim they hold the right to void the remainder of the $66 million deal he signed only weeks before the accident.

You also might have heard that Ellis is angry about that, and that he isn't too fond of coach Don Nelson, either.

Here's something you might not have heard: Monta Ellis is back.

Yes, it took most of the season, but Ellis is every bit his former self. If he isn't, he's so close that the difference is imperceptible to the naked eye. Since returning from a two-week absence, Ellis has put together a nine-game stretch that last year's play doesn't have anything on.

Ellis' lightning quick first step has returned, along with the end-to-end speed that few players can equal. More important, Ellis' decisiveness and confidence also have made a comeback. Oh, and he's elevating again, too.

There were doubts. In the days, weeks and months after Ellis' accident in August, there were whispers and inferences the injury was more serious than first thought. There was no answer to the question: "Will Monta ever be the same player?"

We can answer now. He will.

Ellis missed the first 43 games of the season before returning in late January. He would play 13 consecutive games, but it was obvious Ellis wasn't right. He was no longer darting and daring; he had become deliberate. His jumper was a little flatter, and he wasn't getting to the hole like he always had.

It seemed clear to anyone watching that Ellis didn't fully trust the ankle, and there was a strange timidity to his game. In those games, Ellis averaged just 13.4 points per game and shot below 40 percent from the field. For comparison sake, Ellis averaged 20.2 points per game and shot 53 percent from the field in 2007-08.

After the Warriors defeated the OKC Thunder on Feb. 21, the team announced Ellis was going to take a week or two off to rest the ankle, which was experiencing stiffness.

Ellis left the arena that night without speaking to reporters, and a few days later he went back to Mississippi to visit with his ailing mother. Ellis missed seven games, and when he returned earlier this month, he told a very different story than the one the Warriors were telling.

Ellis said his ankle was fine, and that it had been fine the whole time. Ellis said the ankle had nothing to do with missing seven games, and that it was all about being with his mom.

The disconnect between Ellis and the Warriors might have gotten more play, but for the fact that there was such a difference in Ellis' play. The blur was back.

Ellis was faster and quicker, more vocal and more engaged. The spring is back in his jumper and he's regained his ability to finish at the rim in traffic.

In his nine games back since the two-week absence, Ellis has averaged 23.5 points per game while shooting 52.6 percent from the field.

True, those numbers don't quite match up to Ellis' February of 2008, when he shot 60 percent from the field for the whole month (one of only nine guards to ever shoot that high of a percentage for an entire month), but you can see he's right there.

Of course, Ellis remains an imperfect player, and it's not as if his flaws have gone away. He still struggles to defend bigger guards, commits a careless turnover or two every game and is a work-in-progress at the point.

But Ellis is back to where he was, and because of that, he can go from there.

There are all kinds of questions surrounding the Warriors these days. Who's running the show? Why isn't Nellie playing Jamal Crawford? Has anyone seen Chris Mullin?

And, of course, there's the one about whether or not the Warriors can void the remainder of Ellis' contract.

That shouldn't be a question anymore. Ellis is all the way back.

Warriors Monta Ellis is All the Way Back originally appeared on NBA FanHouse on Thu, 26 Mar 2009 12:30:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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