It was nearly a year ago when guard Monta Ellis learned his Golden State days were over.
"It's not a bad thing," Ellis said in the visiting locker room in Sacramento, as he took off his Warriors gear for the last time. "Not a bad thing at all."
Though he made himself unavailable to the Bay Area media after Friday's Milwaukee Bucks practice session, Ellis has proved he was right. Saturday night, he will make his second appearance at Oracle Arena since his departure from Golden State.
While some Warriors fans still disagree whether swapping the team's most prolific scorer for a still-injured Andrew Bogut was wise, there is no question it was good for Ellis.
In his first full season with Milwaukee, Ellis leads the team in scoring (18.8), minutes (37.6) and steals (2.03) and is second in assists (5.7). Most important, he has the Bucks in the driver's seat to make the playoffs; they entered play Friday in the No. 8 spot, 71/2 games above No. 9 Toronto).
In addition, after what is shaping up as a first-round series in the spotlight against the Miami Heat, Ellis is expected to opt out of the final year of his contract, worth $11 million, and be one of the bigger names on the free agent market.
That is perhaps a much better outcome for Ellis than if he hadn't been traded, the Warriors remained a mediocre team with him as its focal point and he headed into free agency with that label attached to him.
As was the
"He's all over the floor," Bucks interim coach Jim Boylan told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He's playing defense. Offensively, he's getting after it. He's doing everything for us right now. I don't know if anybody in the league is playing as hard as he is right now, with his intensity and focus. It's an inspiration to his teammates."
Ellis has won Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors twice. He scored 34 points and hit a clutch jumper down the stretch in an overtime win over Utah on Monday. He's taken over some of the point guard duties from Brandon Jennings. And, according to the rumor mill, the Atlanta Hawks were hot after him at the trade deadline.
So, no, it hasn't been a bad thing at all.
"To be honest, I would put myself in the same category as (Dwyane) Wade," Ellis said in a sit-down interview with a Milwaukee TV crew earlier this season. "At the end of the day, the only thing he has that I don't have is more wins and two championships. That's it.
"As far as playing on the same level, competing every night on both ends, shooting inside and outside, fast break, transition, Monta Ellis has it all."