*MONTA ELLIS reached the next step in his rehab – full practice. But before I get to the good stuff, here are some other less important items of note (that you won’t care about once you get to Monta but I’m putting them in here anyway!)
*Marco Belinelli was at practice, sitting down in a sweatsuit watching guys scrimmage. I didn’t see the other two injured players, Stephen Jackson and Brandan Wright. Azubuike was in practice uniform, but he just stood on the side from what I could see. He didn’t participate. He officially has a sprained neck and is listed as a game-time decision for Wednesday. Biedrins was given the day off. He worked out in the weight room, but didn’t practice with the team.
*Jackson showed up after practice in street clothes. His t-shirt said “Stack Jack” on the back, bordered by a rectangle of rhinestones.
*There were an unusual amount of dunks, at least compared to what we usually see when we’re allowed to watch practice. Jamareo Davidson got a pretty one-hand follow dunk. Then Corey Maggette surprised Davidson with a one-hand tomahawk on the break, which Maggette followed with a strut and a few words (more on that later). Randolph was leading a 3-on-1 break and kept it himself, stretching for a dunk over Rob Kurz with one-hand. Even C.J. Watson, on a fast break, tried to dunk on Maggette, who went for the block expecting C.J. to lay-it up off the glass. C.J. couldn’t get the dunk down.
* OK, Back to Monta. Tuesday, he did more than run up and down the court. This time, he was full-on playing, though he looked to be at about 75-80%. The only thing left is for him to get in shape and he’s ready to play. I got .50 cent down on a Monday return.
Nellie: “Monta actually did the whole practice today, which probably I wasn’t supposed to do. It kind of ended up that way. … He’s getting closer. … He was playing the small forward. We had a lot of guys out. But his grasp of the plays are decent obviously.”
When I walked in to practice, Monta was in triple threat position against Corey Magette. He faked right, dribbled hard left, stopped on a dime (ok, more like stopped on a half dollar) and pulled up a jumper. It looked pretty dangers as Monta’s feet landed underneath Maggette, who contested the shot aggressively. Monta didn’t seem to alter his shot or his landing at all, which was a sign he’s not thinking about his ankle.
Why was Corey guarding Monta? Because Marcus Williams was, and when Williams was trying to front Corey on defense, Corey just threw him aside. That happened before I arrived, but I’m told it prompted the switch and Corey was told to chill out.
Why was Corey so aggressive ? Jamal Crawford said because Monta was talking trash and he thinks it got Corey going a bit.
Yes, Monta was talking trash the entire time I was there. He also did some encouraging — shouting “Good D, Rob” several times — but mostly he was talking trash. He played SF for the B team: Kurz, Marcus Williams, Davidson and C.J. Watson. They were playing against Maggette, Crawford, Morrow, Randolph and Turiaf.
Crawford said Monta lifted practice. He said the two talks “all the time” off the court. Crawford even traded trash talk with Monta.
Crawford: “Yeah. I’m not backing down. I’m not going to start it, but I’mma finish it. I’m not 50 Cent, but I’m Jay-Z, I’ll finish it. (laughs)”
Other Monta moments:
– He nailed a fade-away jumper and ran halfway down the other end of the court talking trash
– He found himself behind Maggette in the post. Corey’s turnaround jumper missed, and Monta sprinted down court the other way shouting “Let’s Go! Let’s Go!”
– Monta, dribbling out top, split a double team with a quick spin move, though his pull-up jumper banged off the front rim. Again, a sign he’s not thinking about the ankle.
– Monta stripped the ball away from Maggette out by the 3-point line, then dove on the floor for the loose ball, beating Maggette to it. Corey fell on top of Monta, then helped him up.
After practice, Monta zipped by the media and PR director Raymond Ridder. He did, however, come back out and talk to us. He was already talking when I got done with Nellie. I came in on …
“Trying to bring my voice to get everybody going and just try to have a great practice.”
These are your games right now. Is this where you need to get your competitive juices going?
“That’s what I’m saying. That’s I said it starts with practice. Then practice carry over into games. So we’ve got to do whatever we can. Like I said, we can still make the playoffs if we make this run, get a couple wins under our belt and see how it goes.”
Did you know you were going to go today? What’s the process right now?
“We’re just going day by day, see how it feels the next day. Continue to do what we’ve been doing. Like I said, I’m just glad to be back on the court.”
Have you noticed anything?
“No pain. No swelling. Nothing. Everything feels good. It’s just I’ve been trying to get back safely.”
What speed would you say you’re at right now?
“I’m not going to put a speed on it. Just going to take it day by day?”
How’s your conditioning? Were you winded out there?
“C’mon, man. It’s been nine months. Anybody try to come back after nine months and play this game, they ain’t gone have it. Like I said, I’mma work hard every day, try and get that back. See how it goes.”
Is your ankle 100 percent strength wise?
“Yeah. Strength wise? Yeah. Right now it ain’t even ankle. It’s the condition work, getting back in the flow of things. It’s been nine months since I played basketball. Like I said, I’mma take it day by day, continue to work hard, keep moving forward.”
Is there anything you can’t do?
“I could do whatever I could do before I left.”
(Crawford comes over and stands alongside the media to listen to the interview)
How are you handling it mentally?
“It’s over with. It’s done. I did everything to get it strong. I can’t worry about that because once I worry about that, I’m just going to hurt it again. So just go out and play basketball. Whatever happens, happens.”
How about that Crawford guy?
“Ahh, man. He’s a bum.”
(laughs. Crawford walks away smiling)
“Naw, for real though. I just can’t wait for us to play aside each other and see how it goes.”
Is there a day on the calendar you’re looking at?
“Like I said, I’m taking it day by day.”
Are you starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel?
“The light’s been on. Like I said, I’m just glad to be back out there to even play five-on-five, to be at practice the whole time and get through it no pain. Like I said, I’m just going to have to take it day by day. I don’t know when I’m coming back. I’m not going to say what percentage I am. I’m just going to continue to work hard, continue doing the things I’ve been doing to get to this point and get on over with it.”
I want to give you a chance to respond to something that’s out there about you …
“Whatever it is about me leaving, wanting to go, I don’t want to play for Nellie – that never came from my mouth. I don’t know where they got that from. But I’m here for the next six years. I’m a Warrior. I’m always going to be a Warrior. Whoever put that out there, they did it because they wanted a story. I’m making it known right now. I’m a Warrior. I love playing for Nellie. I never said that not one time. So you don’t have to worry about that.”
Are you glad I’ve given you a chance to clear that up? (laughs)
“I was going to do that anyway before this interview was over with. It shocked me when I read it. But I never said that. I’m here for the next six years. The only thing I’m worried about is getting back on the basketball court. Everything else is irrelevant.”
Is it true that you were talking about coming back already, that you wanted to be playing games by now?
“I don’t know where you get that from either. Like I said, I’ve just been working hard. It probably ran across my mind that yeah I think this and think that. But once you get on the court and see that it wasn’t ready, you just had to step back. But I’m here now and that’s all I’m worried about. Everything else is behind me.”
Is that the most fun you’ve had in a while?
“Oh yeah. I haven’t been doing nothing. I’ve been limited. I’ve been doing nothing. It’s to be back and going back and forth with the guys, making everybody play hard, everybody laughing, everybody having a great practice.”
Are you planning to surprise everybody with your return, just pop up one day in the lineup?
“I don’t know. I can’t say. I want to play, bad. At the same time, with this, I have to take my time and make smart decisions. So when that time comes, I’ll let everybody know when Monta Ellis is back in the starting lineup.”
So, you’re ruling yourself out for tomorrow night?
“Ok. Yeah. (laughs) One game at a time? Yeah. I’m out for tomorrow. I’m not playing. (laughs)”
So you’re not willing to come off the bench?
“Oh, naw. (laughs)”
So you’re not coming back until you’re ready to start?
So you’re at the point where you’re one game at a time?
“It’s been like that since I had the screws out. Like I said, it’s a process. You’ve got to take it day by day.”
Are there any last final check-ups you need to go through?
“I can’t go out and play tomorrow. My ankle won’t let me do that. I’m not fixing to go out there and hurt my team just going out there not in shape with just my presence. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to take my time and get everything back 100 percent.”
Looking back at rehab, was it harder than you thought? Easier? More frustrating?
“Nothing easy about it. It was frustrating. But he (Mark Grabow, the Warriors’ director of athletic development) kept me on the right path and told me what, let me look at the good things, I mean the positive things. (He told me,) ‘Just take your time. You’re going to come back. It’s a long season, you’ve got a long career ahead of you. Just take your time and when you’re ready, you’re ready.'”
You were really vocal. What was that about, you being more of a leader?
“More like bringing the joy back to basketball, to Warriors basketball. When I’m on the bench or watching the game, it seems like some players get down on themselves too easy. (I’m) just talking and just lifting them up, keeping them going the whole game. Don’t let down, you’re going to make mistakes. Just move on and continue to play basketball.”
You pick up any hobbies? Collecting stamps or something?
You’ve been bored to death?
How many tats have you added since you last were on the court?
Two times how many?
“Naw, just two. I don’t know what y’all talking ’bout.”