Perhaps as important as any: Their confidence that his motivation is pure.
“What people don’t realize is I don’t think Monta is coming in to prove he can score,” Mark Cuban said. “I think Monta is coming in to prove he can win. There’s a big difference there.”
There is no question that Ellis can score. He’s put up 19.4 points per game in his career, peaking at 25.5 points per game for a 26-win Golden State team four years ago.
However, eight years into his career, the 27-year-old guard has been on a grand total of two playoff teams. And those were both eight seeds, although the first was the Warriors team that stunned the 67-win Mavs in the 2007 first round, the lone playoff series win of Ellis’ career.
Ellis couldn’t wait to escape Milwaukee, declining an $11 million option year in his contract and turning down a three-year, $36 million extension offer to test free agency. He settled for much less money than he wanted, signing a three-year, $25 million deal with the Mavs, but he feels like he finally has a chance to play for a winner again.
“I’m not even worried about stats,” Ellis said. “I’m worried about wins -- W’s and L’s.”
For Ellis to maximize the Mavs’ chance of making the playoffs, much less their goal of making postseason noise again, he needs to make some significant adjustments to his game. Offensively, he needs to be much more efficient, which he acknowledges although the subject annoys him. Defensively, Ellis annually ranks among the NBA's steals leaders, but he needs to become more of a calculated risk-taker, “a little smarter,” as he said.
So far, so good through the first week of practice. Coach Rick Carlisle, who earned Ellis’ trust by making the effort of traveling to Houston to meet and work with him on the player’s offseason turf this summer, has been impressed by Ellis’ defensive intensity during the first week of practice. Cuban loves the way Ellis has aggressively attacked the basket, creating for himself and teammates and not just jacking up a bunch of long jumpers.
“The biggest thing for me is to come and try to get a good feel for my teammates, get a feel for the system and my surroundings, play hard and bring energy,” Ellis said, “and the offense will come.”
The Mavs are optimistic that Ellis will do his part to make sure the wins come, too.