I actually heard these words from a member of Warriors management, who could not officially talk about the trade because it wasn’t done yet, about the trading of guard Monta Ellis.
“This had to happen at some point. Who are we kidding?”
On the bright side, you can chalk up the Warriors’ jaw-dropping blockbuster trade – sending Ellis, second-year big man Ekpe Udoh and injured Kwame Brown to Milwaukee for center Andrew Bogut the fact that management finally accepted reality. It had already accepted the fact that major roster improvements were needed and had spent the last year-plus trying to make those changes.
But, in the end, after all the posturing and promises, Warriors’ brass agreed with most fans – they cannot win significantly with a backcourt of Ellis and point guard Stephen Curry.
Golden State had been hard after a big man for some time now, with no apologies to center Andris Biedrins. First they set their sights on Nene, then Tyson Chandler, then DeAndre Jordan, then Dwight Howard. Of course, Warriors’ brass knew Howard was a pipe dream. According to one member of management, “we just want to be in the race.”
But weeks ago, the Warriors learnedMilwaukeewas willing to part with Bogut. Days ago, the talks got serious.Golden State was trying to pull the deal off without giving up Udoh, but that wasn’t flying with the Bucks. The Warriors were also trying to getMilwaukeeto take back center Andris Biedrins.
“Nobody wants that contract,” one source with knowledge of the negotiations said.
But Ellis, it appears, gave the Warriors the incentive to do the deal. He began chirping about wanting out behind the scenes. Then, Tuesday morning before shootaround, he gave the Warriors all they needed by going public.
ELLIS (after shootaround): “I probably could go to Orlando or Chicago and get a championship. But if they don’t move me, what can I do? Hopefully — if they don’t move me – they get somebody in here so we can win and I don’t have to go through this every year.”
The Warriors obliged. Said one source: “You want to be traded? Fine then.”
Now, if Ellis had not started chirping, the Warriors might have pulled the trigger anyway. The fact is they’ve been on the hunt for a center for some time. Bogut was on the Warriors short list last summer. But Milwaukee wasn’t willing to part with him.
No doubt, Bogut’s latest injury (fractured left ankle) helped make the Bucks willing to ship him. Plus the rise of Ersan Illyasova. Plus the fact Milwaukee has made the playoffs once with Bogut since he was drafted in 2005.
None of that was enough to chase away the Warriors. Though Bogut may not play the rest of this year,Golden State couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a center. In Bogut, the Warriors get a legit defensive presence and a few offensive skills to work with. To the Warriors, him paired with David Lee instantly makes the Warriors formidable on the front line.
“You watch,” one team source said, “David Lee is going to be an All-Star.”
Trading Monta gives Warriors rookie swingman Klay Thompson a chance to blossom. Most important, trading away Monta also officially hands the keys of the franchise to Stephen Curry. Since Don Nelson left, Curry has had a hard time wrestling the point guard role away from Ellis. Both Keith Smart and Mark Jackson preferred running the offense through Ellis instead of letting Curry learn on the job. Now, the Warriors get to see what they have in Curry, who they have touted as a core future piece since drafting him in 2009. Golden State, at one point or another, turned down the chance to get Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo so they can keep Curry.
The Bucks inquired about Curry, but in the end Monta was simply more expendable and the guy they most wanted to get rid of. Ellis, with all his skills, has long been a source of controversy and drama for the Warriors.
In the summer of 2008 – after signing a six-year, $66 million contract – he messed up his ankle riding a moped and lied about it. Most of the season was lost to injury and the situation berthed a feud with then-Warriors president Robert Rowell, who suspended Ellis for 30 games and threatened to void Ellis’ contract.
In 2009, he opened the season by criticizing the drafting of point guard Stephen Curry, deeming the two couldn’t win together. During the 2009-10 season, Ellis had multiple run-ins with then-coach Don Nelson. Back in early February, Ellis made national news when a sexual harassment charges against him were made public by accuser Erika Smith, a former Warriors employee.
And all that was on top of constantly having to manage his unhappiness (perceived or not), walk on egg shells to prevent rubbing him the wrong way – even the difficulty of getting ahold of him.
Ellis was so good, was such an attractive part of their entertainment product, the Warriors dealt with it. Plus he had made noted strides in several areas. He was a much better teammate, much better leader. But this latest episode, plus the growing reality that they were not going to win with him as their best player, plus the opportunity to get a legit center, compelled the Warriors to pull the plug.
In the end, the Warriors got exactly what they said they wanted in exchange for Monta – a star player. Bogut has never made the All-Star team, but he is reputed around the league for being a tough, skilled, physical center. Plus, he’s only 27.
His injuries aren’t chronic ailments, but more freak accidents resulting from his willingness to sacrifice his body.
Bogut played all 82 games his rookie year. The end of his sophomore season was cut short after a sprained left foot forced him out the final 15 games. In 2008-09, he played just 36 games. He missed the final 31 games with a lower back injury. Then in 2010, a fall on a dunk led to a dislocated right elbow, broken right hand and a sprained wrist.
With Curry’s ankle issues, the Warriors seem to be relying heavily on oft-injured player to get healthy. Ellis was one of those guys you knew was going to show up and play every day. You know he’s going to ball in Milwaukee. Monta is simply a guy who produces. He will no matter where he goes.
Curry and Bogut, with Lee and Klay Thompson, almost has to pan out because the Warriors gave up their cap flexibility for this coming offseason – especially if they keep Rush. They still have the Stephen Jackson chip, and maybe they can get something good in return if they pair him with Dorell Wright. Otherwise, the Warriors won’t be able to make any significant signings since they’ve already used their amnesty.