COMMENTARY : Ellis Has Worn Out His Welcome in Seattle
As if it isn’t tough enough succeeding as an NBA franchise, the Seattle SuperSonics have had Dale Ellis to deal with. The operative word there is had. All the sand has run out of the Ellis hour glass.
The latest escapade in the 30-year-old Atlanta native’s unimpressive file unfolded in front of the Sonics office Wednesday afternoon following an abbreviated practice. Ellis, who is presently on the injured list with an inflamed nerve in his right foot, and forward Xavier McDaniel threw punches at each other on Queen Anne St. on this appropriately gray day.
“It’s just one thing after another,” Sonics coach K.C. Jones said. “It’s something I’d rather not get into.”
Attempts to reach Ellis were futile. And while McDaniel confirmed something happened, he wouldn’t discuss it.
“Well, I don’t know what to say about it,” McDaniel said. “I’m not talking about it. I’m not talking about anything right now and we’ll leave it at that.”
One Sonics player, who demanded anonymity, saw the beginning of the incident, but left it alone.
“They were arguing and it was getting real heated,” he said. “I decided to stay out of it. But I’ll tell you this, we’re all tired of him.”
That says it all, in a nutshell.
The root of the argument could stem anywhere from Ellis’ lax attitude during practice while attempting to get into shape, or his appearance at Tuesday night’s game with the New Jersey Nets at the Coliseum. Ellis showed up nearly four minutes into the game, opted not to sit on the bench, and plopped himself down in Sonics owner Barry Ackerley’s empty seat at midcourt next to Sonics president Bob Whitsitt.
At the time, Whitsitt defused the whole thing saying, “It’s a lot better seat than he would have on the bench.”
But fans and players were surprised.
“It shows who the big man is around here,” Sonics guard Nate McMillan said.
It stunned Jones.
“I didn’t know where he was,” Jones said. “Then I saw him sitting with Bob at midcourt.”
And wearing the grin of the cheshire cat.
This should be the final straw, regardless of what provoked the incident with McDaniel. His attitude has been as indignant to the media the past few weeks as any time during his stormy career with the Sonics, even harmless questions regarding his foot.
According to a source from the Dallas Morning News, Dallas Mavericks guard Derek Harper, once Ellis’ best friend in the NBA, has had enough of him as well.
It no longer matters that he’s been the Sonics leading scorer the past four years. Ackerley certainly would sooner choke on his turkey today than eat the $5.15 million that is guaranteed Ellis the next four years. That apparently is why Whitsitt uncharacteristically wasn’t taking or returning calls Wednesday -- clearly, the same reason why he so reluctantly agreed to the six-year pact with Ellis as opposed to the short term deal the Sonics wanted.
He’s had it with Ellis, too.
Since he was jailed with teammate Kevin Williams for an altercation in Houston’s Ocean Club during the 1987 NBA playoffs, Ellis has also been jailed for a domestic violence confrontation with his wife Monique, and he just last month served 24 hours in the Northwest Rehabilitation Center for being found guilty of drunken and reckless driving on Jan.12. He wrecked his car, punctured his lung and broke three ribs in the one-car accident -- missing 27 games. That was his 17th moving violation since he joined the Sonics in 1986.
Now THIS. Perhaps McDaniel goaded him into the fight. At this point, it would be understandable considering McDaniel has knees that have cut his jumping ability in half and a back that requires stimulation every time he sits down. He’s still playing 40 minutes a game, shorter and lighter than Ellis, but battling every night.
Meanwhile, Ellis never was in shape during training camp. Then four games into the exhibition season, he sits down with tarsal tunnel syndrome -- the inflamed nerve.
“I don’t know about anybody else playing with pain,” McDaniel said last week. “I just always have from the time I was in high school.”
Witnesses say he questioned Ellis’ toughness ... his desire to play
So what can you do?
This is no time to envy Whitsitt’s job. Not only has Ellis’ attitude been problematic in trade talks, now he’s got the foot to deal with.
Can they get a first-round draft choice for him? Take it. Even if it’s 20th or so. The Atlanta Hawks are dying to get rid of Moses Malone. Send Dale back home to Marietta. Moses would at least give the team a low-post center.
The difference this year is Ellis has been nothing more to the Sonics than a distraction. The team already has been up, down, and is currently battling back to its feet without Ellis doing anything more than disrupting plays in practice.
Do it now.
Cut the losses.
Be rid of him.