Dale Ellis, a reserve for three seasons in Dallas, thinks his trade to the Seattle SuperSonics will finally give him the chance he’s needed in the NBA.
“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for,” he told a news conference Monday. “I’m looking at this as my opportunity to excel and I’m going to do my best to take advantage of it.
“I like this situation because it’s going to create minutes for me. This is an opportunity to show my skill and develop it to its fullest.”
The 6-foot-7 Ellis, Dallas’ 1983 first-round draft choice from the University of Tennessee, was acquired by the Sonics last week in a trade for 6-foot-6 Al Wood, a big guard and a five-year NBA veteran who spent the last three seasons in Seattle.
Ellis averaged 7.1 points for the Mavericks last season while Wood averaged 11.6.
“I think Dale will play an important role on our team next season,” Sonics’ President Bob Whitsitt said as he introduced the 25-year-old Ellis. “We think he can contribute. We value his outside shooting. He’s a small forward with the capability of playing the big guard in certain matchups.”
At Dallas, Ellis was competing for playing time with three other small forwards -- Mark Aguirre, Jay Vincent and Detlef Schrempf.
Ellis admitted he was unhappy with Dallas Coach Dick Motta about his lack of playing time, but Whitsitt said Ellis should be thankful for Motta’s decision to trade him.
“Dick Motta has a rule where he makes decisions on players usually after three years,” said Whitsitt. “If he feels after three years that they’re not going to get the playing time they deserve, rather than keep a guy there where it could affect a guy negatively down the road, he’ll do everything he can to accomodate that player so he gets a chance to play.
“I think that was the situation with Dale. He was a good player with not enough minutes. So it was time to make a move.”
Ellis averaged 8.2 points as a rookie and a career-high 9.3 points in his second NBA season in 1984-85.
In Seattle, Ellis must compete for playing time with Xavier McDaniel, the Sonics’ 1985 first-round draft choice who had a sensational rookie season. McDaniel averaged 17.1 points and eight rebounds in his first Sonics’ season.
“My playing time will be decided by Coach (Bernie) Bickerstaff,” said Ellis. “I’m going to go out and work as hard as I can to earn the playing time. It’s up to him to award playing time to the players and who he thinks is going to get the job done.”
Ellis stressed he was still confident about his ability. He averaged 22.6 points in his last season at Tennessee.
“When I came out of college, I was like a lot of college players,” he said. “I thought I was going to move somebody out of a starting position in the NBA. It didn’t happen but that didn’t hurt my confidence. I just never took it personally.
“At times, Motta would call on me in critical situations when he needed an instant offense to come in and shoot a three-pointer and try to give the team a lift. So I never had time to get down on myself. I always had to be ready to play.”
Ellis is coming from a winning situation in Dallas to Seattle and a team that has gone 31-51 and missed the playoffs in the past two seasons.
The Sonics have made major changes since the end of last season. Whitsitt was hired by Seattle owner Barry Ackerley and General Manager Lenny Wilkens, former long-time Sonics’ head coach, resigned to become the Cleveland Cavaliers’ head coach.
The Sonics also made a major trade with Milwaukee, swapping unhappy center Jack Sikma to the Bucks for backup center Alton Lister. Sikma asked to be traded to a contender. The Sonics also received Milwaukee’s 1987 and 1989 first-round draft choices and gave up their second-round picks those years to the Bucks.