Monta Ellis

Monta stands by comments about pairing with rookie Steph

NBC Universal, Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO – Monta Ellis concedes he has a few regrets about his NBA career and, certainly, the way things unfolded during his time with the Warriors.

Not among those regrets is Ellis’ memorable comment in 2009 when asked if he could envision being paired in the backcourt with a rookie named Stephen Curry.

“Can’t,” Ellis said. “Just can’t.”

The general response was as if Ellis were planting his “veteran flag” and alienating the rookie. Those three words still live in the memory of many fans.

Ellis’ reasoning was sound, which probably is why he still stands behind the comment.

“We would have had two small guys in the backcourt,” Ellis told NBC Sport Bay Area on Saturday at Chase Center. “And the West was tough at that time. We were just too small. Just too small.

“I didn’t lie.”

No, he did not. Ellis was 6-foot-3, 180 pounds. Curry also was 6-foot-3 but a few pounds lighter. Golden State’s starting back would have been bulldozed by the likes of 6-foot-6 Kobe Bryant, 6-foot-6 Manu Ginobili, 6-foot-6 Brandon Roy, and 6-foot-7 Caron Butler – and, also, 6-foot-3, 210-pound Baron Davis, who by then was with the Los Angeles Clippers.

The reason an Ellis-Curry starting backcourt was even a possibility was that’s the duo the front office wanted. Ellis, in his fifth season, was the team’s most popular player and the cherubic Curry was the new lottery pick.

The fans, went ownership’s errant reasoning, are going to love it.

The team, of course, suffered. The Warriors were 26-56 in Curry’s rookie season, 36-46 the following season.

There is, however, more to the story. Chris Cohan, then the team owner, and Bob Rowell, then the team president, were wading into the basketball operation. They already had made a series of questionable decisions, including dumping general manager Chris Mullin – after he had negotiated an agreement to retain Davis.

“They broke the whole thing up,” Ellis said of ownership dismantling the “We Believe” team that thrilled the fan base in the spring of 2007 and then improved by six games in 2007-08.

One Cohan/Rowell decision was particularly irritating to Ellis, though, because it was personal. After he sustained a serious ankle injury in a moped accident during the summer of 2008, suspended the guard for 30 days without pay for violating a clause in his contract – despite then-coach Don Nelson and Mullin lobbying against the suspension.

Ellis admits he was annoyed for almost a full year before Curry arrived. Then to see the team draft another smallish guard didn’t sit well with him.

“It was out of frustration, too,” Ellis said of his disapproval of the starting backcourt desired by ownership “At that time, there were a lot of things that were promised that didn’t happen. That’s part of what was going on with me.

“But it was never anything personal with Steph. It’s just that we were in the West. That wasn’t going to work.”

Cohan sold the Warriors in November 2010 to a group led by Joe Lacob and Peter Guber. New ownership spent a season evaluating the entire organization before making a series of decisions to reset the franchise.

One of those decisions came on March 13, 2012, when Ellis was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in a deal that brought 7-foot center Andrew Bogut to Golden State. The move was not popular – Monta was a fan favorite – but it was necessary if the Warriors were to become a contender.

With guidance from advisor Jerry West and others, Lacob and then-GM Bob Myers reached the same conclusion as Ellis had 29 months earlier. The Ellis-Curry backcourt was not the way – certainly, once 6-foot-6 Klay Thompson was drafted in June 2011.

Ellis saw the wisdom in a Curry-Thompson backcourt.

“It was just one of those things,” Ellis said. “Me and Steph talked about it. What I said that day didn’t have anything to do with me having a problem with him.”

Ellis, now 38, retired after the 2016-17 season. He was only 31, but his game, built on quickness and midrange shooting, fell out of favor in a league moving rapidly toward accentuating the 3-point shot.

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