Monta Ellis has a question for you: “Is the NBA All-Star Game for the best players overall or the best players on the best teams?”
While it might come off as self-promoting, the Warriors guard strongly believes it’s the former. Regardless of Warriors’ record, being the third-leading scorer in the NBA certainly merits strong consideration for a trip to Los Angeles next month. Ellis is quietly respected by Kobe Bryant and other peers as one of the most feared scorers in the game.
If Ellis is named an All-Star reserve, he will be the Warriors’ first since Latrell Sprewell in 1997. Ellis recently sat down with ThePostGame.com to talk All-Star voting, Stephen Curry, why he wants to remain a Warrior, his wife’s life as a cop, his pastime for fishing, and more.
TPG: What argument have you made for yourself to be a Western Conference All-Star reserve being one of the NBA’s top scorers on a losing team?
Ellis: “This is the second year I’ve been in this situation. At this point, the only thing I can do is to continue to do what I do, try to help my team win and everything else will play out itself. I understand that it’s the West and there are a lot of tough guards in the West. It’s a tough decision. But the only thing I really do control is helping my team win.”
TPG: Last season you said that Kobe Bryant, yourself and LeBron James, in that order, were the best players in the NBA. While those words displayed your confidence in your talent, critics felt otherwise. How do you look back on that statement now and how it was perceived?
Ellis: “I really didn’t care how people took it. That was my opinion. When you look at it, stats speak for themselves. They are going to look at other end of it when it comes to team record, success and all that. But the All-Star Game to me is for the best players, not what the team is doing. If I make it, I make it. But the only thing I really care about is helping my team win and getting to the playoffs.”
TPG: So do you define the All-Star Game as having the best individuals, not the best players on teams with the best records?
Ellis: “To me that’s what the All-Star Game is. It’s for the guys that producing, that’s putting up the numbers. What I’ve learned the last few years is you can control what you can control. Everything else is not on you. What I can control is helping my team win and everything else will play itself out.”
TPG: What would making the All-Star Game for the first time mean to you?
Ellis: “It would mean a lot because this would be the first time we had an All-Star since '97 since Sprewell. It would mean a lot to me. It would mean my hard work has paid off and the league is now paying notice to me. They’re recognizing I am an All-Star in this league. It’s nothing that I wake up every morning saying, ‘OK, I’m going to do this to be an All-Star.’ I let my game speak for itself.”
TPG: You and teammate Stephen Curry are close now and play well together. But initially, you were vocal about the fact that you didn’t think you two small guards could play together in the Warriors’ backcourt. Can you reflect back on how you thought initially and what changed?
Ellis: “Like I told Steph this summer when I talked to him, what was said had nothing to do with him. I didn’t know him as a person, a basketball player, none of that. I was going off of what was told to me. It was out of anger and frustration. I was told we weren’t drafting a guard. Than on draft night we draft him. It was a miscommunication on our part, me being stubborn. I really didn’t want to accept the fact that I was lied to. They sent a lot of mixed signals to me. They say this is my team and your building the team around me than you draft a guard that you say we weren’t going to draft. There were a lot of mixed signals. But I went home this summer and evaluated myself. For me to change my environment and the situation meant I needed to change myself first. That’s what I did.”
TPG: How did you change and when did it start?
Ellis: “It started this summer. I don’t let too much get to me. I leave everything in the past behind me. Come in with a great spirit, a great mindset. Be more of a leader. Lead by example. Talking. Holding players accountable such as myself. Try to lead this team.”
TPG: A lot of NBA stars have either changed addresses or want to change their address over the last couple of months. What has made you want to stay with rebuilding Golden State instead of going somewhere where winning was a given?
Ellis: “There is no need for all that. To me it’s a headache. I wasn’t going to cause no type of problems when I’m trying to fix this problem over here and then have to come around and deal with this over here. We have loyal fans every night. They come by to support me. This is my second home. They gave me my opportunity. I’m just going to wait it out and see what happens. I have three years left after this (season). We will play it out. We’ll turn it around. We’re so close. I don’t need a trade or demand a trade because we are right there.”
TPG: Would it be more special for you to win with Golden State than anywhere else?
Ellis: “Yeah. Just like Paul Pierce in Boston. He had a lot of ups and downs. Before he won a championship he had a lot of downs going into it. He didn’t leave. He stuck with the organization saying it’s going to get better and we’re going to bring some guys in here. So I just take on the same mindset. Just wait it out and see what happens. When three years from now come, that’s when I make my decision and evaluate the situation and go from there. Right now I’m just here and I feel it out.”
TPG: How do you feel about the Warriors’ new ownership?
Ellis: “They’re great. They know how to run a business. They’re all about winning. Dedicated. They assured us they’re going to give us everything we need to win and they got our back.”
TPG: When you originally met your wife, Juanika, she was a cop in Memphis. How did you feel about her job?
Ellis: “I was like, ‘OK.’ There was no reason for me to be scared of the cops. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. When she told me she was a cop I was cool because my dad was a cop. He just retired last year after 35 years. It didn’t scare me.”
TPG: But did it worry you when you and her began getting serious?
Ellis: “When we started getting serious I told her to quit her job. It was nice we were dating. She would tell me stories that I wasn’t comfortable with because I was being so serious with her. I told her to leave her job; we could work on something else and move together. I started a family right away.”
TPG: Was there one story in particular your wife told you when she was a cop that sticks out?
Ellis: “Yeah, but I’m not going to say anything about it. I’m glad that she believed and trusted in me. She’s a police for 12 years. She left everything in Memphis and came (to the Bay Area) with me.”
TPG: You have off-season homes in your hometown of Jackson, Miss., and in Memphis. What makes you so fond of living in the South?
Ellis: “I can sleep in late. I can stay up late. I pretty much do what I want to do. I don’t have to worry about waking up at 10 or 11 in the morning to do this or that. The weather? It’s hot, but I love it hot. Fishing, that’s my thing. I get to do that, and also see my family in the off-season. I’m gone for so long sometimes we miss them. I spend time in both places and it’s only an hour-and-40-minute drive.”
TPG: Was it hard for you to adapt to living in the Bay Area when you were drafted by Golden State?
Ellis: “The Bay Area to me was just a bigger Jackson. Same kind of people. Same environment. People don’t realize Jackson is a city instead of the country. It wasn’t different except it’s just bigger (in the Bay Area).”
TPG: How much do you love fishing?
Ellis: “Fishing to me is like golf to most people. It’s relaxing. It keeps your mind off a lot of bull crap. It’s peaceful and relaxing. The water. The wind coming off the water. During the day time it’s too hot. Other than that it’s mind free. My mom, my grand mom, my granddaddy, my great grandma, my great granddaddy used to do it a lot. It’s pretty much in my family. Everywhere we go (we fish). My great grandma has a pond at her house, my mom has one, I have a pond in mine in Memphis and Mississippi. My house in Mississippi I have a 100-acre lake. In Memphis I have about a 5-acre lake. I just go to the backyard. I don’t have to drive no where. Just straight to the backyard and get a boat, go fishing and go back in.”
TPG: What’s the biggest fish you caught?
Ellis: “Probably an eight-pound bass. I cut him up and ate him. We eat everything from out of there. We ain’t mounting nothing on the wall. Nothing. Anything from out that water we’re frying and dining.”
TPG: Being an avid fisherman, how aware must you be of dangerous water moccasins while in Mississippi and Tennessee?
Ellis: “I’ve saw like four or five of them in my pond in Memphis, and three in Mississippi. It’s a snake that lives in the water. If it’s on land it will move to the water, but if it’s in the water in will move real fast and strike you. Once it hits you, you can die from it. I saw one about 10 feet away. They probably get a foot long and curl up. As long as they don’t come this way. I have my little 22 on me just in case they come by, and I
will hit them with that.”
TPG: Warriors coach Keith Smart said that when you get tense in games he tells you to go to your place, which mentally means to how relaxed you are when fishing. Does that work?
Ellis: “He hasn’t told me that in a minute. The last few years with what I was going through being frustrated he would tell me to go fishing, go to your place. When he tells me that I know exactly what he means. He means picture myself out there fishing and clear my mind.”
TPG: Once you leave the locker room after home games you are quick to get your young
son, Monta, Jr., in your arms. Tell me about how much your son means to you?
Ellis: “It feels so good to be a father to a brilliant young kid like him. He’s like a sponge. He will adapt to every little thing. When you are feeling down and you walk in the house, he’s going to do something that’s going to make me laugh or say something that’s going to catch my attention. The good thing about it is seeing him every day I get to mold him into the man that I want him to be. Mold him to where he will understand that his father did everything he could to make his life better."
TPG: How did your dad not being in your life as a child shape you as a person and a
Ellis: “It made me want to do the right thing to stay in his life meaning don’t get caught up in the bull crap that is going along here. Be a great husband and a great father. That’s something my grand dad always taught me to be, keep my household together.”
TPG: You have a daughter on the way. If you feel that way about your son, how do you
think your daughter will affect you?
Ellis: “I’ll feel the same way. They say a girl is going to change me a whole lot. She’s going to be a daddy’s girl. I’m going to have them that way. M.J.’s a daddy’s boy. It’s amazing and feels good. I just wish I had the same thing that they have. They also made me a better person and a better father and want to give my kids anything.”