The Golden State Warriors were dealt a serious blow on Wednesday with the news that star guard Monta Ellis will be out for at least three months after severely spraining his ankle during an off-season workout.
Ellis, 22, also tore a deltoid ligament during the workout in his hometown of Jackson, Miss., last Thursday. He underwent surgery Wednesday in Birmingham, Ala., to repair the ligament and is expected to be immobilized for six weeks.
He'll then undergo at least six weeks of off-court rehabilitation before he can rejoin the team for basketball workouts.
It's a big loss for the Warriors, who signed the high-scoring guard to a six-year $66-million US contract extension on July 24. After the loss of restricted free agent guard Baron Davis to the Los Angeles Clippers in the off-season, Ellis was expected to step up and become a focal point for the team.
"He's one of our main guys, but we don't think it's a season-ending injury," Warriors general manager Chris Mullin said. "The time frame, it fluctuates, but hopefully with his youth — and he's been pretty durable and resilient to injury — hopefully he does get back [soon].
"With the off-season moves we made, hopefully we can still play at a high level this year. To me, it's more something that you look at as a challenge, and you don't let it defeat you, you deal with it."
Ellis coming off career year
Ellis, winner of the NBA's most improved player award in 2006-07, earned the substantial pay raise after putting up career numbers last season.
In 81 games, he averaged 20.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists while shooting over 53 per cent from the field for the Warriors, the league's highest-scoring team last season.
Ellis will miss the team's training camp and pre-season play, which includes a trip to China, along with at least the first month of the regular season.
"Training camp was going to be an important part of his development," Mullin said. "That's going to be postponed, obviously, but he's got a lot of development on and off the court that he's going to continue to do. I've got a lot of confidence in him, and now his job is to get healthy."
In the absence of Ellis, recently acquired point guard Marcus Williams is likely the leading contender to see a bump in minutes in the up-tempo system of head coach Don Nelson.
Williams, who was acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Nets last month to serve as a backup to Ellis, averaged 5.9 points and 2.6 assists in 53 games with the Nets last season.
Mullin will also travel to Chicago on Thursday to observe a workout with former Clippers guard Shaun Livingston, who hasn't played since suffering a gruesome knee injury in a game on Feb. 26, 2007.
Mullin also expects his current players to step up in the absence of one of the team's biggest weapons.
"Just in talking to Nellie today, [we're] talking about maybe spreading that ball around and getting scoring from different areas," he said, mentioning more shots for players like Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington and newcomer Corey Maggette. "Marcus is more of a pass-first point guard. If at some point he thought he didn't get a chance [in New Jersey], he's going to get a chance now."
Golden State's training camp opens Sept. 27.