Monta Ellis Maintaining Focus On Bucks' Season
By Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel
St. Francis - Monta Ellis says he's not thinking about his contract or where he will be next season.
And the Milwaukee Bucks clearly hope that's the case.
The Bucks need Ellis playing at a high level if they want to hold their current eighth playoff position or move up a notch or two in the final 33 games of the NBA season.
That's why there was so much talk about Ellis' on-court demeanor Saturday night, when he took nine shots and scored just eight points in the Bucks' 105-100 home loss to the Detroit Pistons.
Ellis' body language seemed to signal a certain unhappiness or discontent.
But the Bucks shooting guard insisted after practice Sunday that he is fully committed to the team's success.
"I go out and play hard every night," Ellis said. "I do whatever it takes to help my team win. I don't know why people are doubting that or whatever.
"I still go out every night and play hard, try to do whatever I can to help my team win, even if it's on the offensive end, distributing the ball or on the defensive end.
"You go through things in the NBA. You go through a stretch where you're shooting bad. You go through a stretch where you're losing. You go through a stretch where you're winning.
"You take the bad with the bad, the good with the good and move on to the next one."
Ellis has struggled with his shooting touch. In the last six games he has converted only 36.8% of his attempts, making 32 of 87 field goals. In that same stretch he has hit 20% from beyond the three-point arc (4 of 20).
He shot 6 of 21 in Denver on Tuesday and was 7 of 20 against the New York Knicks on Feb. 1. His best game recently came when he hit 7 of 16 shots and contributed 21 points and 11 assists in a victory over Orlando on Feb. 2.
The Bucks have lost five of their last six and three in a row.
"He's just got to stay aggressive," Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. "There have been discussions. He's not being singled out or anything like that.
"But he's a vital piece of what we do. We need him to play his game. If he does that, we'll live with it, whatever the results are. I believe if he plays his game then he will be effective."
Ellis is averaging 5.4 assists and 1.8 steals, both above his career numbers. He is averaging 18.1 points but is shooting 39.8%, nearly six points below his career mark of 45.7%.
This time of the season can be distracting for players, with the NBA all-star break approaching and the trade deadline coming up Feb. 21. The Bucks acquired Ellis at the deadline last season in the deal that sent center Andrew Bogut to Golden State.
Ellis, 27, has an interesting contract situation with an $11 million player option for the 2013-'14 season. That means he could decline the option this summer and become an unrestricted free agent.
"I'm not thinking about that," Ellis said. "Right now I'm under contract with the Milwaukee Bucks until otherwise. I'm just trying to play basketball, that's it."
Following practice, Ellis spoke briefly on the court with Bucks owner Herb Kohl.
Ellis said he knows how much Kohl wants to see the Bucks return to the playoffs.
"That's always been his mentality, to win," Ellis said. "We're going to try to find a way to do that before it's too late."
The Bucks have two home games remaining before the break as they face Washington on Monday night and Philadelphia on Wednesday night.
"From here on out until the end of the season, all the games are critical," Ellis said. "It's not just these two.
"It's always important when any team is trying to get to the playoffs. I know the fans are waiting on it, us as players and the organization are waiting on it. There's bumps in the road that come with it.
"We just have to find our way to overcome those bumps in the road and do whatever it takes to win."
Boylan said he hopes the trade deadline will not affect his team's psyche or preparedness in the next few games.
"I think it's also an excuse," Boylan said of the deadline. "It's an easy thing to hide behind. I understand. These guys are human beings and when they see something may be going on with them in their life, a big change, it can be unsettling.
"But with that said, this is pro sports and we have guys who have been around for a few years. They've been around long enough to know you're always going to be mentioned in a trade. Everybody gets traded.
"Just look at the guys who have been traded from this franchise alone. We traded Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar). We traded Bogut.
"Kevin Garnett got traded (from Minnesota to Boston). Dwight Howard (by Orlando to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team deal).
"You're paid to perform. Ninety-five percent of the time, nothing happens. Stay focused and do what you're supposed to do."