Cuts, abrasions lead some to question cause of Ellis' injury

Updated: October 24, 2008, 11:25 PM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

Questions about how Golden State Warriors guard Monta Ellis sustained a serious ankle injury are only getting louder.

Monta Ellis

Ellis

Multiple league sources have told ESPN.com that Ellis had several cuts and abrasions on his leg -- atypical of an injury sustained on a basketball court -- in addition to the high ankle sprain and torn deltoid ligament he suffered on Aug. 21.

The Contra Costa Times had earlier reported that the severity of the injury has the Warriors skeptical about the explanation they received from Ellis, who told the club he got hurt working out in his native Mississippi.

Ellis has not spoken publicly since his injury was revealed Wednesday and his agent, Jeff Fried, declined comment when reached by ESPN.com.

Just over a month after receiving one of the biggest pay raises in NBA history, Ellis underwent ankle surgery to repair the torn ligament last Wednesday in Alabama and will likely be sidelined until December at the earliest.

Two experts in sports medicine consulted by ESPN.com, granted anonymity because they aren't privy to the specifics of Ellis' condition, said that a torn deltoid ligament is rarely seen in basketball. The deltoid ligament, the sources explained, is on the medial (big toe) side of the ankle while the structures typically involved in a high ankle sprain are on the opposite (lateral) side of the ankle. Involvement of the deltoid suggests a more serious rotational injury than those commonly associated with the NBA, the sources said.

In a conference call last week with local reporters, Warriors executive vice president of basketball operations Chris Mullin said that Ellis informed the club that he injured himself playing pickup ball, but Mullin acknowledged that the details were unclear.

The Warriors have declined further comment beyond refuting part of the Contra Costa Times' Saturday report, which said that the team's athletic trainer, Tom Abdenour, had been dispatched to Mississippi to further examine Ellis. Abdenour, according to the team, is in South Africa as part of the NBA's annual Basketball Without Borders camps.

If Ellis is found to have sustained his injuries by taking part in non-basketball activities prohibited in his contract, Golden State could theoretically attempt to void the new six-year, $66 million deal signed by the 22-year-old on July 24. But such a drastic step is considered highly unlikely as long as the injuries cause no lasting damage, given Ellis' standing as perhaps Golden State's most prized asset in the wake of Baron Davis' free-agent defection to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The more likely punishments -- assuming Ellis makes a full recovery from his injuries -- are a fine or, at worst, a suspension.

A similar scenario played out in the 2006-07 season when Los Angeles Lakers forward Vladimir Radmanovic admitted to suffering a separated shoulder while snowboarding in Utah during the All-Star break, some five days after initially telling the Lakers that he slipped on an icy street while carrying a coffee. Radmanovic was fined $500,000, nearly 10 percent of his 2007-08 salary of $5.6 million.

Ellis' new contract calls for him to earn a flat $11 million in each of the next six seasons. That's after Ellis made $770,610 last season to complete a modest three-year deal he received as a second-round pick in 2005.

The 6-foot-3 guard earned that huge bump by averaging 20.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists last season, after winning NBA Most Improved Player honors in the 2006-07 season when he averaged 16.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists. Ellis seemed to understand his importance to the team's post-Davis future when he shared at a news conference in late July that Davis recently "told me it was time to hand over the torch."

It's been a difficult offseason for the Warriors, starting with Davis' verbal commitment to sign with his hometown Clippers on the very first day of free agency. The solace for Golden State is that Ellis has a history of making strong, fast recoveries from major injuries.

Despite a decorated high school career, Ellis slipped to No. 40 in the 2005 draft, largely because of a knee problem that scared teams off. But he has since proven more productive in the NBA than any of the 10 players drafted out of high school that year, which was the last time high school players were eligible to be selected. That group includes No. 6 overall pick Martell Webster (Portland), No. 10 Andrew Bynum (Los Angeles Lakers) and No. 18 Gerald Green (drafted by Boston, now with Dallas).

Ellis also suffered what initially appeared to be a serious knee injury during a summer-league practice in 2006, then endured a scary fall early in training camp last October that resulted in a neck sprain and required him to be immobilized and carted off the court. In both cases, though, Ellis missed minimal time. He appeared in 77 and 81 games, respectively, after the two injuries.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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