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Ellis determinted to let play pave way to All-Star Game

Posted Feb 1 2011 2:18PM

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Monta Ellis wants to redecorate the Golden State Warriors practice facility.

There's a banner that stretches above the floor and honors every All-Star in franchise history, and the sixth-year guard figures it's long overdue for an addition. In what is by far the NBA's longest drought, the Warriors haven't had an All-Star since Latrell Sprewell in 1997.

"I was 12,'' Ellis said. "I was playing in mud and eating mud pies at that time.''

In other words, no recollection.

Ellis might be the best chance the Warriors have had in years to put someone on the All-Star team. He is No. 6 in the league in points (25.1), first in minutes played (41.1) and is averaging a career-high 5.6 assists per game.

"Offensively, he's complete,'' Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. "There's not much he can't do offensively.''

All that might still leave Ellis at home when the game's elite take the floor in Los Angeles for the All-Star game Feb. 20. Among his competition for essentially three reserve spots - coaches vote for two guards and two wild cards, which is usually split between one guard and one big man - are San Antonio's Manu Ginobili, Utah's Deron Williams, Phoenix's Steve Nash, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook and the Los Angeles Clippers' Eric Gordon.

Ellis' incredible scoring has done little to change the fortunes for Golden State (20-27) this season, and that could be the biggest reason he gets passed over again.

"I think for us now, we're not even looking at him as a possible All-Star. He's an All-Star, we know that,'' Warriors coach Keith Smart said. "But he's making plays. When you get guys starting to make wow plays in practice, that's when you know he's at a different level. There have been times in practice where Monta has done something where players are like, 'Wow. How'd he do that?' So we've seen and everybody is starting to see a guy who is putting on a show.''

About the only place Ellis can be guarded is off the floor.

He prefers to keep his personal life private and doesn't speak to the media often - and rarely in an individual session. After his worst game of the season Sunday night, when he scored two points on 1 for 9 shooting in a win over Utah, Ellis was long gone by the time reporters were allowed to enter the locker room.

The tattoo-covered guard who walks with a strut and plays with a you-can't-stop-me attitude is still loose with teammates and close with family. He's just not big on self-promotion or politicking.

"I'll let my play do the talking,'' he often says.

Even that hasn't always been positive.

Ellis signed a $66 million, six-year deal after he averaged 20.2 points during the 2007-08 season. Then he sustained a serious ankle injury that summer on his motorized scooter and missed most of the season, earning a 30-game suspension without pay because he wasn't supposed to be riding such a vehicle.

Some Golden State fans even booed Ellis, and he became the poster boy for the franchise's latest struggles. Before last season, the Warriors drafted Stephen Curry, another undersized guard who dominates the ball, and it seemed Ellis' days with Golden State might soon be over.

Ellis even publicly expressed his discontent with the point guard dynamic, and he had a less-than-ideal relationship with Curry in the early part of the young guard's otherwise sensational rookie season.

These days, the Ellis-Curry tandem has been the main catalyst in the small strides the Warriors have made. Their relationship has vastly improved, and fans have noticed.

Ellis is regularly hearing "M-V-P'' chants when he's shooting free throws.

"Half the people in the Bay Area once thought, 'He has to go,''' Smart said of Ellis. "Now when you start hearing your fan base chanting a couple of letters in your building, that just shows you a guy who has turned his life around and his game around that speaks volumes.''

Those around the league have begun to take notice.

Ellis has 11 games with 30 points or more already this season, a game-winning shot and a tying shot at the end of regulation to force overtime - both in thrilling fashion. That includes three games with 40 points or more, with a season-best 46 points in a victory over Houston in the regular-season opener.

"He's having an All-Star kind of year,'' said San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who will coach the West team.

Whether Ellis has done enough to become an All-Star will be known Thursday, when the league announces the game's reserves. The Warriors, with names such as Rick Barry and Wilt Chamberlain proudly painted on their All-Star wall, are hoping this is the year they can finally add to their mural.

"To be honest, it wouldn't mean as much as if we made the playoffs. But the last time a Warriors players made the All-Star was, what, '97, Sprewell? It'd be a boost for us,'' Ellis said. "It would mean we're getting the recognition, teams starting to look at us more like a great, young blossoming team and with many more years left to develop into a powerhouse that we focus to be.''

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