Obscured by the controversy they caused, Monta Ellis' comments regarding his on-court compatibility with rookie Stephen Curry might have revealed something more about the Warriors' fifth-year guard.
When do you last recall Ellis speaking up about something controversial, especially so directly and authoritatively?
And when was the last time you heard Ellis break off some basketball philosophy?
Maybe Ellis' comments Monday that he and Curry wouldn't work together as a tandem illustrates Ellis' development. Members of the organization are certainly touting Ellis as much improved.
They say he's 100 percent healthy. They say he's matured. They say he's motivated like never before. Ellis' development on and off the court has them all but promising big things.
"He will have a great year this year, if he stays healthy," said Warriors coach Don Nelson said. "Monta, after this season, he'll be a made man."
Three significant changes are at the root of Ellis' alleged transformation.
Perhaps chief among them was the Warriors' decision to back off their stance that they reserved the right to terminate Ellis' contract, which officially ended the controversy of his moped accident.
All last fall and through the season, team president Robert Rowell maintained his stance that the team could void Ellis' contract for violating the uniform conduct policy on his contract by lying to the team about how he was injured. Then in
While Ellis said he didn't care if they voided his contract or not, one source close to Ellis requesting anonymity said Ellis has been able to truly move past the incident since the Warriors put it in writing. With five years and $55 million left on his contract guaranteed once again, the source said Ellis is prepared to fully invest in the Warriors.
Ellis still has not talked about how he hurt his ankle, as he said he would last training camp. That is because Ellis said the incident is "out of his mind."
"October 28th, 2009, it's a fresh start," Ellis said during media day Monday. "So last season, you can wipe that out. I'm not looking in the past. Only thing I'm worried about is this season. I feel good, my body's healthy and I like the situation we're in."
By all accounts, his ankle is 100 percent. No, really. Not like last season's 100 percent, which included soreness and swelling. Even when he played well, Ellis looked a step slower — settling for jumpers and committing charging fouls on plays he used to blow by defenders.
Not anymore, apparently.
"Monta's really fast," Curry said. "Really tough to keep up with."
Ellis would say the most significant change was the arrival of Monta Jr. this summer. For Ellis, whose father wasn't around, being a dad was a life-changing event.
"He's grown a lot," said swingman Stephen Jackson, Ellis' best friend on the team. "Having a child has definitely made him more mature. He's more focused this year."
Ellis confirmed his purpose and goals were altered by fatherhood. With marriage next in line, he said he realizes his decisions no longer affect him alone. He said he's become a homebody, replacing hanging out with buddies with family time.
Warriors general manager Larry Riley revealed another significant change in Ellis.
"(Monta) said, 'I think I need to start working out some more.' He brought it up," Riley said, recalling the conversation. "He said, 'Can you send Rico (Hines) down here?' I said, 'Heaven's yes.' I didn't have to tell him."
Hines, one of the Warriors assistants, made three trips to the South this offseason to work out Ellis, spending two hours a day in the gym.
They worked fanatically on his ballhandling. They played hours of one-on-one to improve Ellis' ability to create and improvise off the dribble. They also worked on his jumper and increasing his shooting range.
Is Ellis truly converted? Will his newfound maturity stand up to the rigors of an NBA season, especially if it's a losing one?
The Warriors say yes. Jackson said Ellis has a chip on his shoulder and will play like he has something to prove. Riley said he is convinced Ellis wants to be a Warrior and is savoring this new beginning.
Ellis? He's decided to hold off on predictions.