Mavs Monta: No Opt-In. Now What?
Yes, you can root for the Dallas Mavericks, marvel at the overall contributions here of a revamped Monta Ellis, and be angry at everyone involved for the messy divorce that is coming.
I know you can harbor all three feelings at once ... Because I harbor all three feelings at once.
Monta is engineering an escape from Dallas, a place he loved for two-and-a-half seasons, in search of greener pastures (and a salary in excess of the $8.7 mil due him had he exercised his option for 2015-16 in an effort to remain here.
A technicality, by the way: a player doesn't have to "opt in." It just happens naturally when his "opt out" date (July 24 in Ellis' case) passes without action.
But that's not happening here. There is "action" here. Let's bullet-point the action:
*Though it's fairly clear there are no circumstances under which Ellis returns here, tail 'tween his legs, this decision doesn't necessarily end Monta's relationship with the Mavs. He remains not just a way to achieve cap space by trading him for a pick, but also a sign-and-trade tool.
*In fact, we can be very specific here: If Monta leaves in a way that allows Dallas to cleverly tangle him into a big-fish get, a sign-and-trade can be in play. And a cozy fit to pay they level of new Mav equals Ellis getting his new multi-year deal to start at $10.032 mil.
*We can be disappointed by the divorce but not surprised. DallasBasketball.com first suggested the existence of a crack in the Mavs' locker-room foundation back on March 10 in this Mike Marshall piece. That was a teammate talking ...
*Then coach Rick Carlisle did the talking. After late-season loss in Phoenix, Carlisle intentionally, I think, opened the doors to speculation about an in-house problem that needed fixing while questioning his players' basketball "souls.'' The mainstream media then started writing about the issue as it related to Monta.
*Then DB.com's David Lord very specifically pinpointed the problems Ellis has with the roster's "power structure,'' if you will. And blamed some of that construction in his bosses.
^And then on Friday in Denver, as Dallas came away with a 144-143 win in double OT when unlikely hero Raymond Felton converted a layup with 1.5 seconds left and then blocked Kenneth Faried's in-the-paint shot ... there was a very visibly unsupportive Monta, not appearing to be at all engaged with the on-the-court happenings, choosing to instead recline on the floor, even during a timeout huddle.
Did the pout ever go away? Not to the satisfaction of team management. Is the moodiness and the production (as Dallas' top scorer) worth it? Monta's opt-out makes it clear he's gotten their message loud and clear.
At the start of Dallas' painfully short playoff run, I wrote hopefully that "this situation is a bubbling cauldron of emotion, ego and enigmatic behavior but it's one that can be funneled in a productive direction."
The cauldron's been spilt. The funnel's been twisted. The major players are all to blame for all of that. Dallas will attempt to replace Monta with someone with a more malleable ego (good luck!) and someone with an unshakeable basketball soul (good luck!) From Jimmy Butler (an idea we explore below) to Danny Green to Wes Matthews (an idea that, as we'll soon explain, frightens us) to George Hill to infinity ... in addition to big-fishing around Jordan and Aldridge ... the search is now officially on to find big-time 2-guard production.
But here's the difference from before Ellis' opt-out decision to now: Before, you I can could root, marvel and fume at all parties when it came to Monta's Mavs. Now? Just when Dallas needs help the most, Ellis is definitely under no contractual obligation and is likely feels no emotional obligation to give 'em any help.
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