The NBA All-Star Game is like the high school prom. The cool kids act like they don’t really want to be there, but rarely shy from an opportunity to steal the show; freshmen rarely get to go; the real attractions are the pre- and post-prom parties; the whole thing is traditionally overrated; and for all the pomp and circumstance, a lot of people end up complaining about the experience more than anything. And yet anybody who doesn’t get an invite feels like a loser.
And so in a sports society where we don’t want athletes to care about individual accolades — unless it makes for a good motivational story like Paul Pierce — we care on their behalf. We campaign, promote and argue the merits of our favorites to get that prom ticket. And if you’re part of the outcast set, i.e. a losing team, you often have to be creative in making your case.
But sometimes you shouldn’t have to work that hard. Like if you’re affiliated with the Golden State Warriors this year, it’s easy to point out why Monta Ellis is deserving of an All-Star spot.
First, you drop the numbers: Monta ranks third in the League in scoring at 25.9 points per game, second in steals at 2.3 per game, 22nd in assists at 5.6 per game, and first in minutes, logging 40.9 per night. How many players in the League are averaging at least 25 points, 5 dimes and 2 steals this season? One. It’s Monta Ellis. In fact, the only other players averaging at least five assists, two steals and 10 points are Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo. Ellis has 11 games where he’s scored 30-plus points, and two games where he’s cracked 40. Four times he’s posted a double-double for points and assists, a rarity among two-guards.
Then you look at the resume of memorable moments. Three immediately stand out: (1) Christmas Day, when Monta dropped 39 points on Portland on national TV, including a spectacular reverse layup that was at least “Professor J” if not Doctor J-like and will wind up on a few season-ending Top 10 lists; (2) His fourth-quarter shootout with Kobe Bryant on Jan. 12, where Monta finished with 38 points to Kobe’s 39 in a close loss; and (3) Last night against Indiana, where Monta put up 36 points and hit the game-winning jumper just before the buzzer. If you want to add another, there was Monta’s 46-point line against Houston in the Warriors’ season opener.
Last night, the Golden State announcers were discussing Monta’s All-Star competition among two-guards in the West. (Forgetting that specific position within the backcourt doesn’t matter, but whatever.) Gauging Monta’s place in a group already boasting Kobe, Manu Ginobili, Eric Gordon and Kevin Martin, one of them asked, “Is Kevin Durant a forward or an off-guard?” His partner said, “Good question,” even though it wasn’t, since KD hasn’t played two-guard since 2008.
No need to make Monta’s All-Star argument more difficult than necessary when he already has to earn the coaches vote against Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash, Deron Williams and Tony Parker, to name a few. He also has to overcome Golden State’s record (18-23) and the perception that he’s only putting up big numbers because the Warriors system inflates everyone’s stats.
However, one of the better points G-State’s announcers made last night should also be considered. “He’s done too much damage against good teams,” one of them said.
It’s true. In addition to the 38-point line against Kobe and the Lakers and the 39-point holiday outing against Portland, Monta also recorded 23 points and 7 steals in a win over Utah; 22 points, 6 dimes and 3 steals (with a bad back) to beat the Knicks; 29 points against Oklahoma City on the road; 25 points and 7 assists in a close loss to Miami; and 29 points in a win over New Orleans.
When I argued for Zach Randolph‘s All-Star bid over Kevin Love and/or Blake Griffin (if it comes down to that), I used the Grizzlies’ win-loss record as a significant piece of evidence. So by that logic, Monta should lose out in his All-Star campaign to guys like Westbrook, Parker and even Kevin Martin, right?
Not quite. With the Z-Bo argument I said, “If their numbers are essentially even … shouldn’t the edge go to the guy who’s winning more games?” The thing is, nobody’s numbers are even with Monta’s. He’s putting himself in a class by himself, a 25-5-2 class that has one member. And that guy should be taking the limo with the cool kids to the prom this year.