OAKLAND — Monta Ellis sat with his chin up and posture straight, his white T-shirt giving all the attention to his beaming smile.
He looked like the face of the franchise.
He saluted his predecessor, point guard Baron Davis, embraced his increased responsibility and spoke with an obvious confidence.
He sounded like the face of the franchise.
Ellis gave his first public interview since signing a six-year, $66 million contract with the Warriors last week, and he was hardly the shy kid they drafted in 2005 out of Lanier High School in Jackson, Miss. He seemed comfortable in his first appearance as the franchise's premier player. Still, hold off on crowning him king, he requests.
"I have to do more, but it's not just me out there on the basketball court," Ellis said Tuesday from the Warriors practice facility. "It's me and four other guys. I'm just going to go to my coaches, my veteran guys, and we'll all try to lift this team.
"I'm not trying to put anything on my back or try to put more on me, because it's not MY TEAM. We don't have Monta across the jersey. It's the Warriors."
Such comments were indicative of the savvy Ellis displayed Tuesday, which will be necessary considering his new-found importance to the organization. He avoided stepping on the toes of his proven veteran teammates — swingmen Corey Maggette and Stephen Jackson and forward Al Harrington — while expressing confidence in the bevy of youngsters on the Warriors' roster.
He even addressed two of his perceived weaknesses, leadership and point guard skills, and did it with fluidity uncharacteristic of a 22-year-old.
Quiet by nature, Ellis said he's willing to be the vocal leader but will continue to emphasize leadership through example.
And, as he has done his entire NBA career, Ellis shot down concerns about his ability to play point guard. With Davis now playing for the Los Angeles Clippers, Ellis is expected to take over that position despite playing mostly shooting guard his first three seasons. He all but laughed at the concerns.
"To me," Ellis said, "like I've been saying since I've been here, whatever I need to do to help the team win, that's what I'm going to do. If that's playing the point guard throughout the whole season, that's what I'm going to do.
"If you look at the assist ratio to turnover last year, I improved that. I don't have any problem with playing point. I played it before for two years in high school. So it's just me getting back to that point-guard mentality."
Ellis gave credit to Davis for his own readiness to take this new role. He said his relationship with Davis was more than just teammates, but big brother-little brother.
Because of that, Ellis said he knows better how to deal with the media and be a spokesman. He said because of that, he knows how to use his teammates instead of trying to do it by himself.
Because of that, he is ready to be the man for the Warriors.
"Like he told me," Ellis said of Davis, "it was just time to hand the torch over. But with the pieces that we've got, I think it makes up a lot for just losing him. I think we've got a great team, a young team, and a great coaching staff, great organization, going to put it all together and see how it all comes out."
Contact Marcus Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org 5