OAKLAND (CBS / AP) — Monta Ellis pulled on his padded tank top and St. Patrick’s Day green Milwaukee Bucks jersey in the visiting locker room Friday night with a Celtics-Warriors game film showing a few feet in front of him—Golden State’s first game without the dynamic guard from two days earlier.
“Nothing I ain’t already seen,” Ellis quipped of game-planning for a team he knows oh so well only three days after being traded.
A few minutes later, Ellis made a solo strut onto the court at Oracle Arena to enormous cheers and chants of “Monta!” from fans who still love and appreciate him. He hugged Warriors forward Dorell Wright and waved to the crowd in two different directions before heading to the other side of the floor to warm up.
He drew a thunderous standing ovation as the final Bucks starter announced in pregame introductions. Moments before tipoff, Ellis walked along the Warriors bench and gave hugs and handshakes to each of his former teammates before finding toddler son, Monta Jr., and embracing him.
Ellis wound up leading Milwaukee to a 120-98 win, scoring 18 points on 6-for-15 shooting and adding four rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“It was touching but at the same time I still had a job to do,” Ellis said. “We came out and played as a team, got the win, that’s all that matters. It felt great, I felt loose. I took my time to try to learn the system. The guys are great, directing me in the right direction.”
Ellis gave Milwaukee a 2-0 lead when he hit a 15-footer at the 11:18 mark of the first quarter. A tribute highlight video played to Green Day’s hit “Time of Your Life” during a timeout with 5:35 remaining in the opening quarter that ended with “THANK YOU!” on the main scoreboard. Ellis saluted the fans before play resumed, then immediately knocked down a 20-footer.
“It’s kind of weird, but at the same time I think it was the best for both teams. I had great years here. I love it here. The fans were great, everybody was great to me and I’m just looking forward to this game tonight,” Ellis said before tipoff.
“I really can’t put it in words right now. … I knew it was going to come to this at one point in my life. I used to be that same young guy coming in and playing behind Baron (Davis) and Stephen Jackson, and they got traded. I knew one day that some young guy was going to come in behind me and do the same thing. I was prepared for it. I left on a great note. I had a great career here.”
A billboard near the main entrance to an Oracle Arena parking lot still features a life-size picture of Ellis with his white No. 8 Warriors jersey, pumping his right fist in celebration.
In real life, Ellis is rejuvenated and eager for a fresh start in Brew Town. Golden State dealt him, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown for injured center Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson. On Thursday, the Warriors turned around and dealt Jackson to the San Antonio Spurs for Richard Jefferson.
Ellis and everyone involved expected him to receive a warm welcome.
“They loved me here and I loved them back,” Ellis said earlier in the day after shootaround, before later adding, “I love the fans here. They did a lot for me; even through my ups and my downs they always had my back. I think I can call them a part of my immediate family in the world and I’ll always remember them.”
Bucks coach Scott Skiles—who was without starting forward Ersan Ilyasova because of an illness that kept him at the team hotel in San Francisco—is eager to make time to start designing plays around Ellis.
“We’ll bring in some offensive things specifically for Monta,” Skiles said.
Warriors owner Joe Lacob said it was a tough call to trade Ellis, one of his favorite players. But now he feels his franchise has the premier big man it has long searched for, saying Bogut is “a helluva lot better than the Warriors have had here in a long time.”
“It was an incredibly difficult thing to trade him,” Lacob said.
Ellis is now wearing No. 11 and doesn’t plan to go back to 8.
“It’s a new beginning,” he said. “I’m going back to my old high school number.”
Bogut was formally introduced before the game then dressed in his new uniform even though he’s wearing a walking boot on his left foot for a broken left ankle. He is scheduled to have another MRI exam in 2 ½ weeks to determine how he’s healing.
Bogut signed an Ellis jersey for 16-year-old Mark Caramat of San Francisco. The teen said he planned to cheer Ellis, pounding his heart to express his care for the departed shooting guard.
“Oh yeah, of course,” he said of celebrating Ellis’ contributions. “He’s still a Warrior.”
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