If 41-year-old Udonis Haslem is returning to the Miami Heat next season, does that mean that 35-year-old Monta Ellis can make a return to the NBA following a four-year absence?
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“I believe I still have a lot in my tank. I can still play five years,” Ellis told Empire Sports Media’s Almer Aldo via Zoom.
Though the NBA’s 2007 Most Improved Player of the Year hasn’t played in an NBA game since suiting up for the Indiana Pacers in 2017, Ellis has still been making bank. When Ellis and his $11.2 million salary were waived by the Pacers that summer, a stretch provision was applied, and he has been raking in $2,245,400 per year since.
The 2021-2022 NBA campaign is the final one where Indiana owes him money.
Ellis Was a Huge Part of the ‘We Believe’ Dubs Team in 2007
Ellis attended and played basketball at Lanier High School in Jackson, Mississippi before entering the league as the 40th overall pick by the Warriors in 2005. Having turned 20 at the start of the season, Ellis played in 49 games his rookie season, including three starts, and averaged 6.8 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 18.1 minutes per contest.
The 2005-2006 season was the final losing season in a stretch of 12 in a row for the Dubs. That offseason, Golden State brought back Don Nelson to coach the team – 11 years after his first tenure at the helm of the Warriors ended – and after a 26-35 start, the group won 16 of their final 21 games to make the playoffs as an eight seed and the franchise adopted the slogan “We Believe”.
Along with Baron Davis, Jason Richardson and Stephen Jackson among others, Ellis helped lead the squad to a monumental upset of the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the opening round, becoming the first No. 8 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed in a seven-game series. Though the Warriors fell to the Utah Jazz in the next round, Ellis had established himself as a borderline star in his second season, averaging 16.5 points, 4.1 assists and 1.7 steals – all within the top four on the team – and was second to Davis with his 34.3 minutes per game.
Ellis won the NBA’s Most Improved Player of the Year award after the season.
Ellis Getting Traded in 2012 Opened the Door for the ‘Splash Brothers’
The 2007-2008 season was even better for Ellis, as he averaged then-career-highs in points (20.2), rebounds (5.0), offensive rebounds (1.6) and minutes per game (37.9) in 81 contests, including 72 starts. His team-leading 9.0 win shares were also the highest any Warriors player had registered since Chris Mullin’s 10.8 in 1992, and Ellis’ figure would not be surpassed until Stephen Curry‘s 11.2 in 2013.
“My main thing is, just bring me in and give me a look,” Ellis said. “Like you could make the decision on me. I just want a shot. I ain’t asking for a contract to get $5 million, $10 million, or even $1 million. All I’m asking is give me a look. That’s all and let my game speak for itself. I just want an opportunity, a workout, and that’s not the end of the world, that’s not gonna hurt anybody.”
The next three seasons resulted in no playoff appearances for Ellis and company, but the guard put up big numbers, especially in the 2009-2010 campaign when he averaged career-bests in points (25.5), steals (2.2), and minutes per game (41.4) – which also led the entire NBA – while averaging 5.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds as well. With the team stumbling to a fourth straight losing season at 23-43 in the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season, and with Curry showing very early signs of greatness in his third season and Klay Thompson playing off the bench as a rookie, Ellis was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks with Kwame Brown and now-Italian basketballer Ekpe Udoh in exchange for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson.
The trade of Ellis opened up more minutes for Steph and Klay and the rest, as they say, is history.