Saturday, October 11, 2008
Ellis gets 30-game suspension without pay for accident
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Monta Ellis knew he was in trouble after he seriously injured his ankle in a moped accident and then lied to the Golden State Warriors about it this summer.
The high-scoring guard probably never imagined that trouble would cost him about $3 million -- and neither did his coach or the man who drafted him.
Warriors president Robert Rowell suspended Ellis for 30 games without pay Saturday for violating his lucrative new contract, a decision that apparently went against the wishes of top basketball executive Chris Mullin and coach Don Nelson.
Ellis, who agreed to a six-year deal worth $66 million in July, severely sprained his ankle in a low-speed crash in late August. The 22-year-old then compounded his mistake by telling the Warriors he hurt himself playing pickup ball in his native Mississippi, only coming clean about the accident several days later.
Owner Chris Cohan's decision to suspend Ellis seems to expose a rift between the Warriors' top brass and the Mullin-Nelson team, which directed Golden State to its first playoff berth in 13 seasons in 2007, followed by 48 victories last season.
When the Warriors opened training camp last month, both Mullin and Nelson were leaning toward allowing Ellis to return without punishment. Cohan and Rowell instead decided to risk alienating the player expected to be the centerpiece of Nelson's up-tempo offense after Baron Davis' defection to the Los Angeles Clippers.
"Chris Mullin made it perfectly clear to both Mr. Cohan and myself that he didn't think this was a big deal at the beginning, and we happen to think it's a very big deal," Rowell said. "We happen to think that it's a big deal for our fans, it's a big deal for our season ticket-holders, it's a big deal for our business partners, it's a big deal for the Warriors organization."
Both Mullin and Nelson are in the final seasons of their contracts with Golden State, and neither had been approached about an extension by late last month.
The Warriors counted four preseason games in the suspension's length, which means Ellis can't return to the club until after Golden State's 26th regular-season game, against Indiana on Dec. 17. The guard will be allowed to spend time at the Warriors' training complex for rehabilitation during his suspension.
Ellis, who recently underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament, was unlikely to be healthy enough to return before mid-December anyway, but the suspension means the guard won't be paid during his absence. Ellis' agent, Jeff Fried, met with Golden State officials during the week to discuss Ellis' punishment.
Rowell said Fried was "not in complete alignment with us" on the decision. Fried and Ellis couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
"I thought highly of Monta going into the decision that we had to make, and I think just as highly of him as a person," Rowell said. "He's a 22-year-old young man who has done a lot of great things to get himself into a position where he was to get a $66 million contract. We have faith in him that he's going to continue to prosper and be a great player in this league."
There's no doubt Ellis violated Paragraph 12 of the NBA's uniform player contract, which prohibits a player from engaging "in any activity that a reasonable person would recognize as involving or exposing the participant to a substantial risk of bodily injury," including "driving or riding a motorcycle or moped."
But Mullin and Nelson both thought the risks of suspending Ellis outweighed the minor financial benefit.
"That's really not my territory," Nelson said with uncharacteristic brevity Saturday night when asked about the decision. "I'm coaching the team, and that's it. You could talk to the other parties about that if you'd like."
Ellis was the second-leading scorer for the NBA's highest-scoring team last season, averaging 20.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists.
Ellis rejoined his teammates in Oakland in late September. A few hours after facing the Oklahoma City Thunder in an exhibition game Saturday night, Golden State's remaining players and coaches will be off on a 17-hour flight to China for preseason games in Beijing and Guangzhou.