Thursday, January 22, 2009
Updated: January 23, 3:56 PM ET
Ellis plans return to Warriors
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Monta Ellis will be in uniform for the Golden State Warriors on Friday night for the first time this season when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Warriors (13-30) decided after Thursday's practice to welcome back Ellis, who has missed the entire season while recovering from a sprained left ankle sustained five months ago in an accident on a motorized scooter.
Ellis has been back at practice for two weeks with the Warriors, who suspended him for 30 games without pay after the incident. The high-scoring guard got a six-year, $66 million contract extension about one month before crashing his scooter.
"I'm really happy, excited and looking forward to tomorrow," said Ellis, who also closed a deal to buy a new house Thursday.
"We decided as a group after practice that Friday's game would be a good situation for me," Ellis said in a statement released by the team. "I have worked extremely hard during my rehabilitation, with the help of the Warriors' staff, and feel that I'm ready to go. It's just nice to get back to the game that I love and to play for the fans who have been so good to me. I'm really pumped. It's a great day."
Ellis averaged career bests of 20.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists last season while emerging as a dependable shooter for the NBA's highest-scoring club. The former second-round draft pick out of high school in Jackson, Miss., was expected to be the centerpiece of Golden State's offense after Baron Davis' defection to the Clippers, but his injury was a big factor in the Warriors' dismal first half of the season.
Golden State has decided not to void the remainder of Ellis' big contract, even though Ellis' scooter misadventure was a violation of the deal. Ellis initially told the Warriors he injured himself playing hoops but changed his story a few days later.
Coach Don Nelson and top basketball executive Chris Mullin didn't even want to suspend Ellis for his misdeed, but team president Robert Rowell and owner Chris Cohan chose the suspension as an appropriate punishment. Now Nelson must decide how to use a player who thrived in his uptempo schemes over the past two seasons but has never been the No. 1 option on an NBA club.
Ellis could be paired in the Warriors' starting lineup with Jamal Crawford, another smallish shooting guard. Crawford was acquired from New York early in the season to fill Ellis' absence.
Ellis returns to a team that has been competitive most nights but not tough enough defensively to beat the league's best -- and the Warriors have also been plagued by injuries to newcomer Corey Maggette and Stephen Jackson. Brandan Wright, Marco Belinelli and Andris Biedrins all missed Wednesday night's embarrassing loss to Oklahoma City with injuries.