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BUCKS BEAT Ellis set to bolt

BUCKS BEAT Ellis set to bolt

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MILWAUKEE — As the Milwaukee Bucks season winds down, it appears Monta Ellis’ days in a Bucks uniform are numbered as well.

At least, that’s the prevailing sentiment of some Ellis acquaintances. They claim Ellis, the Bucks’ potent-scoring guard, has indicated to them that he intends on opting out of his contract after the season and becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Ellis, who has adamantly refused to discuss his future plans, came to the Bucks last March in a major deal with Golden State. In that transaction, the Bucks acquired Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown in exchange for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson.

In his short tenure with the Bucks, Ellis’ play has wildly fluctuated. He has exhibited brilliance like in a 10-day stretch from Feb. 27 until March 17 when he scored 26 or more points on seven occasions.

He is also averaging 19.3 points a game. That’s the 11th-highest average in the league. The only shooting guards with higher scoring averages are Kobe Bryant (24.6), James Harden (24.3) and Dwyane Wade (21.2).

But Ellis has also had performances where’s he been awful. In a game against Oklahoma City, he went 3 for 17 from the field. In games against Atlanta and Memphis, he went 2 for 14 and 1 for 14, respectively.

Ellis has shot the ball poorly for most of the season. He’s made 41 percent of his field-goal attempts and is a measly 27 percent from 3-point range. Furthermore, the 27-year-old Ellis has been a turnover machine, committing 3.1 a game. He’s had 17 games where he’s had five turnovers or more.

Yet, Ellis contends he’s among the best at his position in the league. Earlier this season, he favorably compared himself to Wade. But if Ellis expects to command Wade-like money ($18.5 million next season), he’s in for a rude awakening this summer.

In conversations with several general managers, not one said they would pay Ellis more than he’s already receiving. That’s $11 million, which is the same amount he would be paid next season if he opted to remain with the Bucks.

But as one general manager noted, it only takes one team to be enamored with Ellis’ explosive scoring abilities and give him a long-term deal in excess of $11 million per season.

Working in Ellis’ favor is that there are nearly a dozen teams that will have ample salary-cap flexibility this season. At least four of them will be in the market for a shooting guard. Those teams are Atlanta (Ellis’ name was prominently mentioned with the Hawks at the trading deadline), Phoenix, Dallas and Minnesota.

There has also been scuttlebutt Ellis would be quite receptive to signing with the Memphis Grizzlies. Ellis has a home outside of Memphis and spends a considerable amount of time there during the offseason.

But the Grizzlies have one of the NBA’s premier defensive shooting guards in Tony Allen who, while being an UFA this summer, is expected to return to the team. More importantly, the Grizzlies have little wiggle room on the cap as they already have guaranteed contracts totaling $60.5 million for next season.

Suffice to say, how Ellis performs in the upcoming Eastern Conference playoffs against Wade and the Miami Heat could go a long way in determining how much money he’ll earn in the years to come ... likely with a team not called the Bucks.

BUCKS NEVER CONTACTED ALLEN: Hall of Fame in-waiting guard Ray Allen of the Miami Heat, who began his pro career with the Bucks, said the Bucks never approached him last summer when he was a free agent about finishing his career in Milwaukee. “No, they never did,” Allen said. “There was no pitch from them.’’

Added Allen: “I considered Memphis and Minnesota. That’s the plate I was looking at. Those were the teams that were offering me to go play for them.”

Allen has another season left on his contract but has acknowledged he may retire after this season.

KNOWS THE FEELING: Minnesota guard Brandon Roy, who has seen his ever-promising career ruined by knee surgeries, said he can relate to Bulls star guard Derrick Rose, who has yet to return to action after knee surgery despite being given medical clearance.

“I think it’s important that he does stay patient and comes back when he feels like he’s ready,” Roy said. “Once he comes back, people are going to judge him on how he was before he got hurt. I think he knows that. So, when he does come back, I’m sure he wants to be totally ready.”

GOOD SHOW: Former Wisconsin center Jared Berggren has performed well at the on-going Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Portsmouth, Va. His solid showing at the PIT, some NBA officials claim, has enhanced his chances of being a second-round selection in the June draft.

BONUS SHOTS: Two NBA executives who once considered UCLA swingman Shabazz Muhammad a legitimate top-three draft pick now have him outside their top 10. … While there has been speculation the Dallas Mavericks will make a run at Bucks’ restricted free-agent guard Brandon Jennings, the Mavs’ first and foremost free-agent priority is Lakers center Dwight Howard. … By all accounts, Lawrence Frank has two more games to coach the Detroit Pistons. Frank is expected to be among at least six head coaches out of work after the season. Houston associate head coach Kelvin Sampson is already being whispered as a serious candidate for a couple of them. … Talk about not being on the same page: I’ve been told that a general manager entered his team’s locker room at halftime of a game this season and actually started instructing his team while the coaching staff was out of the room.


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