DALLAS — With the Dallas Mavericks’ 2011 NBA championship banner raised to the rafters and hanging over his head, Monta Ellis could hardly contain himself while thinking what could be in his future as he joins his new team.
After a short stint in Milwaukee that saw his production noticeably slip following 6 ½ seasons with Golden State, Ellis is once again hoping to showcase the skills that helped him garner the ‘07 Most Improved Player Award. More importantly, he’ll try to team with 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki to help lead the Mavericks back to the postseason after a 41-41 mark left last year’s squad out of the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
“I just try to go out and do whatever I can to help my team win, so whatever it takes for me to help this team to get back to what it was I’m willing to do,” Ellis said while addressing his role with the new-look Mavs following Thursday’s introductory press conference for the team’s off-season signees.
He added: “The last two years when I was with Milwaukee, it looked like it was a slippage, but it was really more of having to adjust my game to the system, the players I was playing with and just a different situation. But, you know, I’m glad to be here with Dallas and ready to get going.”
Ellis has averaged 19 points or more a game each of the last six seasons, but his shooting percentage steadily dropped before connecting on just 41.6 percent from the field and 28.7 percent from 3-point range while starting all 82 games for the Bucks last year. That shouldn’t be the case in Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle’s system, according to owner Mark Cuban, as Ellis figures to benefit from double teams that opposing defenses throw Nowitzki’s way.
“[Ellis] is going to get different looks and I think Rick will put him in a position to succeed much differently than he’s been in, in the past,” Cuban explained. “And so, you know, if you look at the litany of coaches that he’s been through, it’s hard to settle in and know what’s going on. I mean, he’s had how many interim coaches? So, I don’t think you can compare. If you look at him when he played point guard versus when he played shooting guard, his percentages are totally different. You know, from his assists to his turnovers to the shots he creates for other people, and I think playing shooting guard in our system with Jose [Calderon] playing point guard will be different. But, I think with the ball in his hands and everybody knowing he can get to the rim, if you put him in a pick-and-roll, it’s just a different scenario than he’s been in and I think that will make a difference.
“I think he’s an underrated point guard. I think he’s a willing passer and he’s a willing system guy. I just don’t think people realize he’s gone through five coaches in seven years. You know, in Milwaukee he went through two and in Golden State he went through three. I think this will be the most stable environment he’s been a part of, and I think that will really help him a lot. … I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on Monta, but there’s going to be nights when we need someone else to score 20 points and where the defense is just trying to take everything away from Dirk, and Monta can do that.”
Despite his offensive struggles in Milwaukee, both Ellis and the Mavs’ front-office brass believe the cat-quick combo guard can replicate his success while with Golden State, which includes the ‘09-10 season when the 6-3, 185-pounder posted nearly career-best numbers across the board while averaging 25.5 points, 5.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.2 steals in 64 appearances. Still, with several other offensive weapons at Carlisle’s disposal, Ellis is quick to add that the only statistical category that matters at the end of the day is the Mavs’ win-loss record.
And with that said, the eight-year veteran is less concerned with proving his own skeptics wrong and more so focused on helping the underdog Mavericks turn heads this upcoming season.
“I love being underdogs. I love being overlooked. But, I think that we’re going to do a great job here,” a confident Ellis said with a smile. “I think we’re going to get back to the playoffs. And all the doubters, I say by the first month of the season, they’ll change their opinions.”