For so many years, Monta Ellis had been the subject of trade rumors.
Although he was always in discussions, the team could never find the guts to trade the face of its franchise.
Until this season.
Under the new leadership of owner Joe Lacob, changes were finally made when the Warriors broke up the small back court of Stephen Curry and Ellis. One of the final pieces of the Cohen era, Ellis was traded along with Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown to the Milwaukee Bucks for Andrew Bogut — the type of true center the franchise had long coveted — along with former Warrior Stephen Jackson who was traded away again for Richard Jefferson and soon to be retired T.J. Ford along with a conditional first round pick.
On Friday night, Ellis played his first game in his new uniform against the only team he has ever known for the past six and a half seasons.
Special tributes were made, fans had never supported a former player more, and a night to remember unfolded in the sold-out Oracle Arena, the first time a game against the Bucks was sold out in 16 years.
From Rusty Simmons of San Francisco Chronicle: “An hour later, Ellis got a standing ovation from one side of Oracle Arena when he entered through the visitors’ tunnel for the first time since being traded to the Bucks on Tuesday. After stopping to hug assistant coach Pete Myers and swingman Dorell Wright and discuss his new red shoes with guard Nate Robinson, Ellis got the same admiration when he strutted to the far end of the court to start his preparations. Ellis got cheered again when he jogged out with his new teammates for pregame layup lines. Out of a sign of respect, the Warriors announced him last of the five Milwaukee starters, which set off a 22-second standing ovation that extended five more seconds after he gave a two-handed waving salute. The only former Warriors who regularly get cheered here are Antawn Jamison and Jason Richardson, and those guys’ pregame cheers turn to boos when they start scoring baskets. For Milwaukee’s Mike Dunleavy, the boos started when he entered the game. Ellis was different. The Warriors’ fans applauded his first basket – a 14-foot pull-up jumper 42 seconds into the game – and his final basket, a sweeping runner that gave the Bucks an 89-75 lead with 10:39 remaining in the fourth quarter. All told, Ellis came back to Oracle and did what he had done for much of the previous 6 1/2 seasons. He scored 18 points on 6-for-15 shooting and dished out four assists. Only this time, he got a win for a team that is tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. ”They loved me here and I loved them back,” Ellis said of the fans. “One thing I can say: The 6 1/2 years I’ve been here, the fans have given nothing but great support to me, and I tried to give it all on the court for them. I feel that’s part of my family.”
From Marcus Thompson II of San Jose Mercury News: ”Friday was Monta Ellis night at Oracle Arena… It wasn’t one of his most sterling performances, but Ellis still captured Warriors fans. ”It was great how the fans applauded, showed their respects,” Ellis said. “I respect them for that. Much love. I’ve been here for seven years. It was up and down, but at the end of the day, I can’t ask for anything more.”… ”You’ve got to respect a guy like that,” said Ellis’ new backcourt mate, Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings. “A guy who played hard like that, a guy who basically was carrying this team for a long time. There was a lot of love. Even when he was sitting on the bench. I can tell they were upset that he’s gone. But, uh, we’re happy.” … It was certainly a different Ellis from the one Warriors fans were used to. He was wearing green and scarlet instead of blue and gold, No. 11 — “My high school number” — instead of No. 8. No longer the centerpiece star, he was a cog in what looked like a well-oiled machine… ”I think it’s best for both teams,” Ellis said, adding, “I knew it was going to come to this at one point I my life. I used to be that young guy coming in and playing behind Baron (Davis) and Stephen Jackson and then they (left). I knew one day that some young guy was going to come in behind me and do the same thing, so I was prepared for it…”I really just want to get the win,” Ellis said before the game. “I’m not going to try to come out here and kill the Warriors. Like I said, they were great to me. They gave me my shot. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be the Monta Ellis I am today.” After the final horn sounded and he completed his postgame interviews on the court, Ellis said one more goodbye to the fans. He waved to the screaming remnants as he headed toward the visiting locker room. Monta Ellis night was complete.
Although many wondered what Ellis would do in his first game against the team that had just traded him, it turned out to be another former Warriors player that stole the show as Mike Dunleavy — receiving a chorus of boos — scored a game-high 24 points in just 19 minutes of play.
Without Curry and Bogut, Golden State looked like a team ready to tank the season in hopes of keeping their lottery pick — their first pick goes to Utah unless the team ends up with a top-seven pick. They were out-rebounded by the Bucks 54-35 — a decisive factor in the loss — as Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had a field day with 22 points and 17 rebounds.
Back in the East, it wouldn’t be another day without a dramatic ending to a Heat game as they barely held on to defeat Philadelphia to avoid an epic collapse. LeBron James came through again in the clutch.
From Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: “Say this for Friday’s game: Even when the Heat is playing some of its worst basketball of the season, it can still defeat the 76ers. The Heat led the Sixers by 29 points before nearly giving it all back in an 84-78 victory at the Wells Fargo Center. Miami (32-11) has defeated the Sixers (25-19) 10 consecutive times in the regular season and 14 of 15 times overall. That’s the good news. The bad news continues for the Heat, which managed to snap a two-game losing streak despite being outrebounded 54-42. The Heat, just 5-4 since the All-Star break, has been outrebounded in three consecutive games and plays the Magic and Dwight Howard on Sunday … “We can take some good from the second half or we can take all the bad from the second half,” said LeBron James, who finished with 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. “We will learn from the mistakes we had [Friday night], but that won’t take away from being on the road in a really good building and against a really good team and winning this game.” James’ clutch jumper with 1:05 left gave the Heat a six-point lead, and he made a pair of free throws with 18 seconds left to ice the victory. “It’s never good to give up a 20-something-point game, but it’s good to see when you need to and they make a game out of it that you can keep the lead and win, and we can do that,” James said.
- The Nets went into the Amway Center without the franchise Center they hoped to have in uniform and the result was a 86-70 loss to the Magic. Dwight Howard led all scorers with 18 points and the game was never in question as New Jersey played without Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Jordan Farmar.
- After calling their upcoming back-to-back match-up with New York “two very winnable games”, Danny Granger and the Pacers were routed 115-100 in Madison Square Garden and went down by as many as 32 points. Tyson Chandler led the way with 16 points and shut down Roy Hibbert who had four points on just 2-of-10 shooting. Linsanity has become Woodsanity.
- The Hawks took care of the Wizards at home 102-88. Joe Johnson –no longer bothered by a sore knee — had 34 points, six rebounds and five assists. Josh Smith had 23 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, and Zaza Pachulia added 10 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Atlanta sits one game behind Indiana in the standings.
- After firing Nate McMillan and trading away Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace, the Blazers defeated the Rose-less Bulls 100-89, handing Chicago its fourth home loss of the season. LaMarcus Aldridge led five scorers in double figures with 21 points. Carlos Boozer had 22 points and 14 rebounds, but the Bulls uncharacteristically allowed Portland to shoot 49% from the field including 11-of-21 from 3-point range.
- Zach Randolph finally returned after missing all but four games, but the Grizzlies lost in overtime against the Raptors 114-100. Rudy Gay — who hit two game-winning shots the last two times against the Raptors — hit a 3-pointer in regulation to send the game into overtime but couldn’t overcome Jerryd Bayless who had 28 points, six rebounds and nine assists and Gary Forbes who contributed an unexpected 20 points.
- The Thunder continued its recent struggles at home as the Spurs took the win 114-105. After going 17-1 at home to start the season, Oklahoma City has now lost three of the last four at Chesapeake Energy Arena. After trading away a failed experiment in Richard Jefferson, all five starters scored in double figures for San Antonio led by Tony Parker who had 25 points and seven assists while Tim Duncan had 16 points and a season-high 19 rebounds.
- It was an ugly day for Doc Rivers who watched his son get upset in the NCAA tournament, then saw the Celtics get routed by the lowly Kings 120-95. Marcus Thornton was unconscious as he scored a season-high 35 points including five 3-pointers and four steals while Jason Thompson had 21 points and 15 rebounds. Boston — the worst rebounding team in the league — was once again out-rebounded 45-28 and allowed 68 second half points.
- The Suns — on a three-game winning streak — hit the .500 mark for the first time this season after defeating the Pistons 109-101. Phoenix has won eight of its last 10 games and sits just two games behind the eighth seed. Steve Nash controlled the game with 17 assists while Jared Dudley led six players in double figures with 23 points along with seven rebounds.
- Ramon Sessions made an early debut for the Lakers who defeated the Timberwolves 97-92 to hold the best home record in the league at 19-2. Sessions was productive in limited minutes with seven points and five assists as he attacked the basket and provided a spark at the point guard position that the Lakers will sorely need down the stretch. Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 28 points and shook off the loss of long-time teammate and friend Derek Fisher who was traded to the Rockets for Jordan Hill who is inactive. Kevin Love had 27 points and 15 rebounds while Nikola Pekovic added 20 points and 12 rebounds, but Minnesota fell to 1-4 since losing Ricky Rubio.