The Golden State Warriors have formally relinquished the right to impose
further sanctions against guard Monta Ellis for an ankle injury Ellis
suffered in an offseason mo-ped accident, sources told ESPN.com.
The Warriors have maintained for weeks that their satisfaction with
Ellis' recovery from ankle surgery had been conveyed to the
22-year-old and agent Jeff Fried, but sources close to the process
revealed Tuesday that Fried has been presented with a letter from the
club to close the matter in writing, informing Ellis that Golden State will not seek any additional penalties.
Golden State did not comment beyond confirming the existence of the letter through a club spokesman. Neither Ellis nor Fried could be immediately reached for comment.
In October, Ellis was suspended without pay by the Warriors for 30 games -- costing
him nearly $3 million in salary -- as punishment for partaking in an
activity that violates the NBA's uniform player contract and then initially telling the Warriors that he suffered his injuries playing pickup basketball in his native Mississippi.
Ellis' mo-ped ride came about a month after he received one of the biggest pay raises in
league history, signing a new six-year deal worth $66 million in late
July after playing for a mere $770,610 in 2007-08 to complete the
three-year deal he received as a second-round pick in 2005.
The Warriors were criticized for the severity of the punishment and its possible long-term effect on Ellis' psyche but insisted that the suspension without pay was justified because Ellis was
being docked for games he had no chance of playing in because of the
rehabilitation time involved.
Although Ellis ultimately didn't make his season debut until Jan. 23 -- missing an additional 17 games after the suspension was lifted -- and wound up appearing in only 25 games this season, Warriors coach Don Nelson has gushed about Ellis' progress, insisting that he plans to start him at point guard
next season even though the club announced Friday that it was shelving
Ellis for the remainder of the season because of a bone bruise and inflammation in the surgically repaired ankle.
"He's gotten himself back to where he's ... the same player that we
had before, and that's the most important thing," Nelson told Bay Area
In a recent conversation with ESPN.com about the Warriors' slump from
48-34 last season to 29-52 this season, Nelson said: "To me it's so
simple. We lost Monta for [an extended period] and we knew it would be a
down year without Baron [Davis] in the first place. But we had no chance
without Monta. So here we are suffering this bad year, but the bottom
line is with a healthy Monta -- and it looks like that ankle is going to
be healthy -- we're not that far away. We like the team."
Ellis averaged 19.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists in the 25 games
that he played in. Nelson's plan is to shift Stephen Jackson to shooting
guard alongside Ellis next season, with two options at each of the frontcourt
positions: Corey Maggette and Kelenna Azubuike at small forward, Anthony Randolph and Brandan Wright at power forward and Andris Biedrins and
Ronny Turiaf at center.
Yet it's believed that the Warriors -- with a growing cache of trade
assets that also includes sharpshooter Anthony Morrow and backup point
guard C.J. Watson -- will also be active on the trade market this
offseason. Sources indicate that Toronto's Chris Bosh and Utah's
Carlos Boozer are among the veterans Golden State will be tracking
should either become available via trade.
The Warriors maintained from the start that they were not intent on
holding the threat of voiding the contract over Ellis but merely
protecting club interests, until they had hard evidence that Ellis would fully recover from his high ankle sprain and torn deltoid ligament in his left ankle. The team does not appear to be
concerned about Ellis' latest discomfort, saying that the bone bruise
and inflammation is on the opposite side of the ankle than where the injury
was initially suffered.
The Warriors also appear to have quieted fears that the initial
suspension would inflict lasting damage to the relationship between the
team and Ellis' camp, as Fried was in Oakland with team officials on Tuesday to help promote a
super middleweight boxing match that the Warriors are helping to stage
at Oracle Arena in May featuring local favorite Andre Ward. The 2004
Olympic gold medalist is close with Ellis and is likewise represented by
Because Ellis sustained his injuries by taking part in non-basketball
activities prohibited in his contract, Golden State theoretically could
have sought to void the $66 million deal it gave Ellis on July 24. The Warriors, though, insist that pursuing that option was always a highly unlikely scenario unless there was evidence that Ellis -- who became one of the faces of the club's rebuilding effort in the wake of Davis' free-agent defection
to the Los Angeles Clippers -- had suffered career-threatening damage.
The episode, however, is regarded as the genesis of the steady fade from
prominence this season for Warriors executive vice president of
basketball operations Chris Mullin, who is in the final season of his
contract and widely expected to leave the club when his deal expires
Upon announcing the suspension on Oct. 11, Warriors president Robert
Rowell was asked about published reports suggesting that Mullin told
Warriors owner Chris Cohan that he did not want to hit Ellis with such a
substantial suspension without pay and confirmed that there had been a
disagreement with Mullin over how to punish Ellis.
The Warriors are expected to conduct a search for a new general manager
this summer, with Nelson -- who received a two-year coaching extension
worth $12 million in October -- insisting that he has no interest in
doing both jobs. Larry Riley, one of Nelson's closest associates, has been the point man in Golden State's front office for much of the season after he was moved from the Warriors' bench to the front office as assistant general manager in November to replace Mullin aide Pete D'Alessandro.