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Monta, Are You Back?

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A Daily Babble Production

The Warriors didn't notch a win in their visit to the Staples Center this past week, but Monta Ellis provided a reminder of just how exhilarating it is to watch him play when he's healthy.

In Golden State's nationally televised eight-point loss to the Lakers on Thursday, Ellis looked like the guy who earned himself a $66 million extension with his play throughout last year.  After missing the majority of the season with an ankle injury sustained in a moped fiasco last summer, the fourth-year guard appeared to have his quickness and jump-shooting back in order.

Ellis controlled the Warriors' offense for much of his 37 minutes on the floor and wreaked havoc on the Lakers' defense from the top of the circles.  He created space for himself with a set of quick crossovers between the elbows and pulled up with ease from anywhere just inside the three-point line.  Buckets. 

When the Lakers stepped up to him to cut off the mid-range jumper, the slithery guard blew by defenders to the cup.  With a cross and that quick first step, Ellis would beat his man, and then he seemed to explode from the foul line to the rim.  The Lakers' interior defenders rarely seemed to so much as bother him in the lane as he finished an array of finger-rolls and lay-ins.

This display peaked in the fourth quarter.  After Monta knocked down shots from the right wing, right elbow and top of the key, and the Lakers chose to play him a bit tighter away from the basket.  Two more blink-of-an-eye lay-ups ensued.  He put up 10 of the Warriors' 33 fourth-quarter points on 5-for-6 shooting for the period, and he finished 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting to go with his five assists and two turnovers.

Ellis placed himself squarely amongst the league's most exciting players to watch last season, and the last half-year has been a disappointing time for him.  It bummed me out recently when CB member nazzbo, the driver of the Ellis bandwagon around these parts, asked me about Monta's return from injury, and all I could tell him was a wordier version of "He really isn't doing anything well right now."

That was February 27.  At that point, Ellis was sidelined once again due to injury after averaging just 13 points per game on an abominable 44.7 percent true shooting over his first 13.4 games back.  That stretch included just two 20-point performances as well as a total of 32 turnovers, almost matching his 36 assists.

But since returning to the lineup in mid-March, Ellis looks more and more like the Monta of old.  He is averaging 25.2 points over his last five games and posting a true shooting better than 61 percent.  These are shades of the guy who scored 20 per night over the entirety of his third season while putting up an impressive 58 percent true shooting as a swingman despite not being much of a three-point bomber. 

The questions that have popped up in the past few months about his headstrong attitude and tensions between him and the organization remain, but Monta Ellis' ankle appears to be functioning better with every time out on the floor.  He is getting lift on his jump shot and flying to the basket once more.  It's a pleasure to watch for a fan across the country and perhaps a foreshadowing of danger for the rest of the league for the seasons ahead.