Janny Hu, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
The Warriors' can't-miss guard was planning to spend All-Star weekend fishing with his family in Jackson, Miss., but the weather was too frigid in the South. So Ellis, who learned to fish in a pond stocked with catfish and white perch behind his grandmother's house, skipped the food-gathering and went straight to the eating.
"Ate good, slept good, that's it," Ellis said of his All-Star break. "When you go back in the time zone where it's two hours ahead, that's when you miss your day. You sleep and wake up and the day is gone."
It hasn't mattered where or when Ellis has played lately. East Coast, West Coast, Gulf Coast, day games or night games - the 22-year-old has excelled in them all. He comes out of the All-Star break as the hottest player in the league and in a zone rarely seen among shooting guards.
In his last five games, Ellis is averaging 27.8 points while shooting a preposterous 70 percent from the field and adding six rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. His 37 points against Phoenix on Wednesday came off a career-high 18 field goals.
"He's hot," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He's got everything. He's got the little jump shot, going to the basket, very athletic, young legs. He's in a real good moment."
Ellis is already the league's reigning Most Improved Player, and he has taken his offensive efficiency to another level. Ellis is shooting 53 percent this season, trailing only Utah's Ronnie Brewer (55 percent) and Toronto's Jose Calderon (54 percent) among the league's guards - and neither comes close to the number of attempts Ellis has.
His speed and accuracy have made him nearly impossible to guard. If his defender plays him too closely, Ellis blows by him for a layup or dunk. If the defender gives him too much room, Ellis will pop a mid-range jumper that his teammates and coach now expect to go in.
"He's shooting 50 percent, so I'm getting used to it," said coach Don Nelson, who has upped the number of plays run for Ellis lately. "He's huge to our success."
Ellis says his offensive improvement comes from treating practices like games, and Nelson credits that partly to assistant Sidney Moncrief and his focused shooting drills.
The Warriors' first post-All-Star-break practice was held in the middle of an industrial park in Salt Lake City, in a nondescript office building, where the voices of Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson reverberated throughout the gym.
On most nights, Ellis has played at the level of his more experienced teammates. On some nights, Ellis has been better. Has Ellis grown into a team leader with his recent play?
"I wouldn't say right now," Ellis said. "I'm just somebody who's having a phenomenal year and I'm learning from great leaders, and that's Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington.
"My time will come one day. And when that day comes, learning from those guys, I know I'll probably do good."
And it will be as a Warrior. The third-year player is up for restricted free agency this summer, but team executives insist there is no way Ellis will wear another uniform next season. It is simply a matter how much he'll cost.
Ellis is making the league minimum of $771,000 this season and easily could be looking at a salary 10 times as much starting next season. Though his defense leaves much to be desired, and his ball handling and passing aren't at the same level as his shooting, his offensive skills are undeniable.
He has the scoring ability of Allen Iverson and the quickness of Leandro Barbosa. Like Tony Parker, Ellis finishes at the rim and doesn't rely on the three-pointer.
Ellis has heard all the comparisons, and he wishes they were not made.
"It's sometimes cool to be compared to somebody like A.I., but at the same time, you can't let it sit by your head thinking you're A.I. and then fall by the wayside," Ellis said. "There's only one Allen Iverson. And there's only one Monta Ellis."
Ellis was raised by his mother, Rosa, who alternated between jobs at the sheriff's office, the hospital, and even a Frito-Lay factory to make sure her three boys were fed and clothed.
Monta says his speed and confidence come from Rosa Ellis - the confidence from her resiliency, and the speed from trying to escape her whuppings.
"Yeah, I deserved it," Ellis said with a smile. "I was a bad kid. If they said, 'Don't jump on the bed,' I'd jump on the bed. Or, 'Don't play with this,' I'd play with it."
Ellis is all grown up now, soaking in the words of his teammates and coaches, knowing that they need him to continue his hot streak deep into the season. He is not the superstitious type, but he'll do everything he can to keep up his level of play.
"The zone is the zone," Ellis said. "When it's off, it's off. There ain't nothing you can really do to turn it off unless you get unfocused or you start reading into the percentages and thinking you're doing this or you're doing that.
"You've just got to look at the positives, that, OK, they're going down now, but it's all about keeping that good thing going."
On a hot streak
Monta Ellis has put up impressive numbers in his past 10 games:
Date Opponent FG Pct. Pts Rb Ast
1/21 Timberwolves 50.0 28 3 2
1/24 Nets 72.2 39 4 2
1/27 Knicks 60.0 24 8 4
1/29 at Rockets 50.0 18 6 4
1/30 at Hornets 44.4 16 9 7
2/1 Bobcats 70.0 21 6 3
2/7 Bulls 91.7 25 2 4
2/9 Kings 80.0 34 9 5
2/11 Wizards 50.0 22 4 4
2/13 Suns 66.7 37 9 5
Avg 62.4 26.4 6.0 4.0
Warriors are 7-3 in their past 10 games.
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