DALLAS -- Monta Ellis smiled and shook his head when asked for his reaction to Don Nelson's recent comments about him in Sports Illustrated.
That's a pretty pleasant response to being called "a pain in the ass when I had him" and "little selfish bastard" by the man who coached him for four seasons with the Golden State Warriors.
"That's Nellie being Nellie," Ellis told ESPNDallas.com, chuckling. "I mean, at that time, I was, but it is what it is."
Nelson has never been one to bite his tongue, as folks in Dallas fondly recall from his eight-year tenure as the Mavericks coach. His comments on Ellis were one entertaining nugget in a story about Nelson's retirement in Hawaii, where he watches basketball on a regular basis when he isn't busy playing poker with neighbors Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson.
"I said, 'You know, Monta, this is what I want you to do in practice today. I don't want you to take a shot. I think you have the ability to create and make plays. If you could ever be a point guard, the way you can score, you could really be a special player,'" Nelson told Sports Illustrated, recalling a conversation he had with Ellis during their time together with the Warriors. "So he did. He found people in practice. And I said, 'Monta, why don't you focus on being a great point guard? They have the most fun of anybody. They're the man, they control everything.'"
At this point, Nelson paused.
"He said, 'Coach, I just want to play. I just want to play,'" Nelson continued. "He wouldn't consider that. Now, as he's matured, he's started making plays. To his credit, he's a pretty good player right now. When I had him, all he wanted to do, little selfish bastard, was to shoot every time. And never pass."
Ellis, who started playing for Nelson as a 21-year-old in his second NBA season, confirmed that they had that conversation. Ellis isn't any more concerned about Nelson's opinion now than he was then.
"That's him," said Ellis, who averaged a career-high 25.5 points per game in his final season playing for Nelson. "There really ain't nothing negative I can take from him. I give my career start to Nellie. It's going to stay that way, but he was saying that when I was there. It's nothing new to me.
"He did come to me about that, but like he said, I told him I was a guard. I just play basketball. I mean, I've had success with my career doing what I've been doing my whole career. Like I said, that's Nellie. Ain't nothing you can do about it but just laugh it off. That's it."