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OAKLAND

WARRIORS GUARD Monta Ellis doesn't even remember.

That is what he ridiculously claims, anyway, of the summertime accident that sidelined him until Friday night's return against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Once he comes clean publicly, only then will his comeback be complete, no matter how great his high-flying dunk or buzzer-beating 3-pointer in the third quarter looked in a 106-105 loss on a LeBron James buzzer-beater.

There's still that lingering mystery about how he wrecked his left ankle and, consequently, the Warriors' season. Will he ever share publicly what happened?

"No, that's behind me," Ellis responded about an hour before tipoff. "I don't even remember."

He doesn't remember?

Remember that, dear fan. Remember that weak response to a question you've been waiting five months for him to answer publicly.

He doesn't remember what cost him $3 million via a team-issued, 30-game suspension. Everyone else remembers the flashpoint that doomed his and the Warriors' season.

It's really too bad, because he still seems like an innocent kid with enough talent to spark another Warriors' resurgence. He returned without a hitch in his giddy-up, aside from, understandably, looking gassed early and often.

But looking ahead, he has unfinished business to address. He owes the public an honest account of the incident.

Instead, he's sticking with Ye Olde Amnesia defense.


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Of course this wasn't the time or place to confess, not with King James and the Cavs waiting for him outside the locker room.

But the question was whether he'll "ever" talk about the incident.

If he's waiting to give Katie Couric an exclusive, hurry it up. If he's afraid to publicly share his story in fear of having his $66 million contract voided, say so.

Don't go McGwire-esque and say you're not here to talk about the past. The Warriors' presence near the bottom of the Western Conference standings is due in part to Ellis' past, specifically his diary entry for Aug. 21, 2008.

Maybe he just doesn't remember which version he told the Warriors about that fateful day.

Did it happen while working out, as the Warriors claim he first told them?

Or was it a moped mishap, as a still-uncorroborated report claims?

Or did he fall off his truck while washing it, as a recently retired baseball player might recommend as an alibi?

On Sept. 29, in his first comments to the media since The Incident, Ellis said: "We'll address it next week when my agent speaks with the team, and till then, I want to tell you, but you just have to wait it out and see what they say. And when it's time to address it, then I'll address it."

Time's up.

Yes, it still matters at this point. There's a lack-of-trust factor that can't be ignored — by the Warriors and their incredulously loyal fan base — no matter how fun it is to again watch him drive the lane and sink a jump shot.

He doesn't get it.

But he still gets cheered.

Friday night, so did King James (see: vicious dunks, swishing a 3-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer and the game buzzer, making a behind-the-back bounce pass for an assist).

James' future remains ridiculously enormous. After one night back, Ellis' looks uncertain (see: air ball just before halftime).

Root all you want for him to recapture that remarkable burst to the basket. He's worked hard to get back on the court. He's declared his loyalty to the Warriors.

He's still vital to the Warriors' future. Unless, of course, they decide to rip up his six-year, $66 million lottery ticket by virtue of that summertime slipup.

He scoffed at the pregame question of whether he's nervous: "You ain't never known me to be nervous. Why did you go ask me that question? It's another basketball game. That's all it is."

Five months ago, there were fears he might not have another basketball game in him. Did he share those fears?

"No," Ellis responded. "I just thought (his comeback would) be sooner."

So, he may not remember the cause, but he does the possible effects.

As for the extended layoff: "It was frustrating. It's the longest I've ever been out throughout my career, all the way back to pee-wee basketball. But I worked hard to get back. I still have to be cautious a little bit. But I'm glad I got over the hump, and now it's time to move forward."

If he does so without coming clean, the Warriors must be cautious about just what type of leader they expect him to be.

Contact Cam Inman at cinman@bayareanewsgroup.com.