Mavs Monta: Is Ellis Promising A Non-Opt Out?

'My family loves it here,' Monta Ellis says. 'I’d love to retire here. My wife loves it, it’s good for her … I love the city of Dallas, I like how they’ve embraced me.' And in Monta's remarks comes an impression he loves it so much he might not opt out of his contract this summer. Let's go inside this story:

The Dallas Mavericks ’ universe was set abuzz this week by Monta Ellis in a radio interview with 105.3’s "Ben & Skin.'' What we heard was talk about Monta’s potential future with the Mavs, with a new contract to be negotiated at some point down the road.

His current deal, signed in the summer of 2013 and commonly mentioned as a three-year pact, was actually written as a two-year deal with a player option to add on another year. In light of the fact that Monta has become a key contributor for the Mavs, it has been widely assumed that he will decline that extra year (with a salary of $8.72M) and then re-sign with the Mavs in the summer of 2015 for a bigger salary and for multiple additional years.

But, taken at face value, his words in this interview sounded otherwise. Here’s the back-and-forth at the tail end of their rather lengthy conversation that drew attention:

Monta: "My family loves it here. I’d love to retire here. My wife loves it, it’s good for her … I love the city of Dallas, I like how they’ve embraced me ….''

B/S: Man, we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. We know you got a season to play, but when we hear how much you love Dallas and we know how much we love you, we’re just sitting here hoping that you don’t opt out at the end of the season. Hopefully we get to keep you in Dallas for the foreseeable future.

Monta: "Hey, you know, this is business. But, at the same time, I’m going to look into everything, about with my family, sit down with my wife, my kids, and were gonna go from there. But I’m a Dallas Maverick for the next two years and hopefully throughout the rest of my career, and we won’t have to have those type of talks. And we’ll just talk about year after year and see what we need to do.''

So what implications should we draw from those words?


Obviously, taken at face value, the “two more years” remark would indicate that Monta is planning to exercise his player option for another season with Dallas and bypass free agency in 2015. That would be news, as $8.72M for the season would seem to be a discount from the value he might draw as a free agent from another team or from the Mavs.

Nevertheless, it is a plausible possibility, since doing so would move his free agency and negotiation for a new deal to the summer of 2016, when the money and contracts are expected to be considerably bigger due to a massive new national TV deal that begins that season.

And if he returns at $8.72M rather than on a new deal with a big raise, that might provide some added spending room for the Mavs next summer in free agency. (Although, it might not. The Mavs will have lots of moving parts on their roster next summer, with player and team options galore; when all is said and done, they may simply opt to operate as an over-cap team in free agency no matter what Ellis does, re-signing their own and using an MLE and BAE to add outsiders.)


There’s also the possibility that Monta’s words are hinting at a team-oriented approach to free agency, in the same vein as Dirk’s recent deal.

For years we’ve seen the Spurs’ model, in which everyone (even the stars) have sacrificed contractually in order to keep the core together in a cap-affordable manner. The Mavs have tried to follow the same approach, and it would be a big plus for the Mavs if we’re seeing that Ellis is following the lead of Dirk in taking a team-oriented outlook to contractual negotiations.

Aside: Tyson Chandler, who left in 2011 free agency because team goals and personal financial goals can conflict, will be a free agent in the summer of 2015. Will negotiations and possible new deals with Chandler and with Ellis impact each other, and if so, in what way? That will be a biggie for the Mavs and their future.


Unfortunately, while others may read the conversation and draw a different conclusion, I didn’t see any of the above as what was really being meant by Ellis.

Instead, my takeaway from what he said was a sense that he was taking off-the-cuff, rather than intentionally offering a hint of something he has planned. And in that vein, I believe he was talking about playing out the rest of the “three-year deal” he got from the Mavs, with no thought at this point to his ability to get a new deal next summer if he chooses. Was he even fully aware that he might have a decision to make, when B/S were talking about “staying with the Mavs” and “opting out” and the like? I wouldn’t assume that to be the case, as those are details that many players leave to their agent to handle, while the player focuses on playing the game.

So here’s my sense of the Ellis situation, and I think it will follow the normal steps these things usually take.

“Normal” means it all starts to be an issue for him once the season ends (hopefully late in June). At that time, I see in-depth conversations between his agent (Dan Fegan, who is super-smart on this stuff and has had an excellent working relationship Dallas over the years) and the Mavs over what each of them want to do, and Ellis advised based on those conversations. I believe that together they’ll figure out how and when to do a new deal that keeps Ellis here for the long-term.

Maybe that decision will keep him out of free agency in 2015, or maybe it won’t. But in October, I don’t think anything has been discussed already, or decided, so as encouraging as it might end up being, and pending our future conversations with Monta on the subject, and giving full credit to to "Ben & Skin'' for a terrific interview, I'm going to take a wait-and-see approach to what to some fans might interpret as a Monta "promise'' here.

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