Saturday, March 9, 2013

Loving Monta Ellis and the Andrew Bogut Trade

Everyone is probably sick of talking about the Ellis/Bogut trade almost one year later but #MontaHaveItAll is coming back to town and I still haven’t given my seven cents. Over the last few months Andrew Bogut’s injury status has polarized the debate to the point where the middle ground for fans of Monta who agreed with the trade has almost completely faded away. I tend to think that it’s become a “loudest guy in the room wins” type conversation when there’s really a silent majority that just doesn’t care to talk about it anymore. My thing is that it is perfectly ok to love Monta Ellis and still approve of the trade, even if neither side wants to hear it.

These are three most common takes I hear:

1) The Warriors should never have trade Monta Ellis for an injury prone center.

2) Trading Monta Ellis was addition by subtraction.

3) The Warriors got as much as they were ever going to get for Monta Ellis.

I may agree with point number three above all else but I also fall into a grey area that doesn’t get talked about much. The middle ground that understands why stat heads and basketball purists were happy to see him go while completely sympathizing with those who look at it like we traded our best player for a name on the injured list. Looking at the landscape around the league it’s not as if the Warriors turned down some blockbuster deal so they could acquire Bogut and his cankle. Point two still has it's merits also even if I, as a Monta Ellis fan, don't like the way it gets presented in most cases. There's no doubt that Ellis exiting stage left was a good thing for the development of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

I  can't deny that I'm a huge fan and don't care to.
The Warriors came within one win of losing out on Harrison Barnes. There’s no doubt Monta Ellis gets you that one measly win by himself if nothing else. I’m also a big Draymond Green fan and he wasn’t going to last much further into the second round of the draft. Lastly, no trade means no Stephen Jackson; no Stepehen Jackson means no Richard Jefferson corpse; no Richard Jefferson corpse means no Festus Ezeli. When you couple the sum of all those parts along with the “potential” of having a top ten center at some point it’s kind of hard to imagine a better package out there for Monta.

So if Monta is/was so bad in too many in the basketball world why do so many Warriors fans love him so much? I’m glad you asked. As a fan base we watched him grow up in front of our eyes. He was an 18 year old who looked like he should still be in high school when he arrived as a second round pick with no guarantees. It was the ultimate underdog story and lord knows us Warriors fans LOVE a good David and Goliath folktale.

As the smallest player on the team he was also the most fearless when it came to attacking the rim so everyone was sold from the get go. He couldn’t dribble left, he couldn’t shoot from further than 16 feet but he still got to his spots and played a surprisingly efficient game. He wasn’t perfect and he was never going to be a superstar but he was our diamond in the rough. I saw him as Gilbert Arenas 2.0 and this time there was no worry about losing him because league rules wouldn’t allow us to sign him for the long term.

Take a second to remember how much fun young Monta was

One would think that people started turning on him as soon as he signed that contract and stupidly mangled his ankle and the team’s prospects on that damn moped. No matter how ridiculous that situation (and the soap opera that followed it) was there weren’t that many people who refused to see it for what it was. No doubt a stupid mistake, one that was made by a young dumb kid who thought he was indestructible. Money aside, anybody who can’t relate with that scenario is most likely a hypocrite or someone who grew up in a bubble.

The moped wheels on the Monta Ellis story didn’t start coming off until Baron Davis left and he returned from his injury to a team that had four guys on the court and 19,000 fans in the stands hoping he would do something spectacular. Pretty much everyone knew if he didn’t then nobody was leaving happy. In the course of a couple years he went from underdog to top dog and no matter how much he believes in himself he’s just never going to be the number one guy on a playoff team. Is that his fault? The only time there is a problem being a Jamal Crawford type guy is when the team sucks and you're being paid to be something more. I can't wait till he finally lands in a role like that and has a major impact for a winning franchise. It really just puts him in a category with about 400 other NBA players who never get thrust into that role. 

That responsibility lands on the shoulders of Garry St. Jean, Chris Mullin, Don Nelson, Larry Riley and all of the other front office train wrecks that spent years blowing the team up year after year. It wasn’t Monta’s fault that he was the best player on the team and was fetting significant minutes with guys like “The Ghost of Andris Biedrins,” Reggie Wiliams, Catier Martin and many others nobody outside of the Bay Area has heard of. It also wasn’t his fault that his biggest veteran influences coming up were Baron Davis, Corey Maggette, Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington. Most of those guys were good teammates off the floor I’m sure but on the court Baron Davis was the only one who cared if anyone else looked good.

It’s really no wonder that the narrative went from him being “a great contributor on a winning team” to “a black hole who drags his team down” damn near overnight. Like most things it’s all in the eyes of the beholder but my eyes still wish Tyson Chandler signed that offer sheet a few years back and was covering Monta’s defensive deficiencies along with those of Steph Curry and David Lee. The storyline that Monta was the main reason for the historically bad defense is laughable. Again, he’s not the one that put together an entire roster of terrible defenders and D league all stars.

At the end of the day (Courtesy: Mark Jackson) Monta Ellis epitomized everything that was right about this team as much as he represented what was wrong with it. You don’t have to pick one side or the other. I respect the way he competed on those atrocious teams and made me want to hit fast forward for those four minutes a night where he wasn’t on the floor giving us Warriors fans in attendance a glimmer of hope.  He was our only shot at seeing something spectacular on any given night. That’s why I’ll be there when he returns to Oakland Saturday night to give him the love and respect that every kid who grew up Trapped in Golden State deserves. To me, Monta Ellis is a Warriors and he’s always gonna be a Warriors; even if he is a Milwaukee Bucks tonight.