Programming note: Warriors-Bucks coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Stick around after the game for Warriors Postgame Live.
It was Jeremy Lin on Friday. On Saturday, it’s Monta Ellis.
Stephen Curry certainly isn’t a stranger to the pair of former Warriors guards, but that doesn’t stop him from pretending.
“You have personal relationships with them, but once you step on the floor you forget about that,” Curry said. “Obviously familiar faces, a little different, but you have to compete and have an edge about you like you don’t know the person.”
Against Ellis, who he shared a backcourt with in Golden State for two-plus years, that’ll be pretty tough. Curry said he and Ellis have kept in touch since a trade sent Ellis to Milwaukee along with Ekpe Udoh for Andrew Bogut last March.
“He did a lot for me when he was here and you never lose that kind of friendship,” Curry said. “Plus we both have kids now, so it’s cool to talk about that kind of stuff. Besides that, staying in touch and looking forward to catching up with his family when they come.”
Ellis has a son and a daughter with his wife, Juanika, and Curry and his wife, Ayesha, had their first daughter in July.
When discussing his departure with Bay Area reporters last year, Ellis said he never requested a trade from Golden State, but did expect it to happen.
“I knew they weren’t going to send me to no playoff team,” Ellis said at the time. “But hey, they’re still in the running, I think we can put some wins together and go for the No. 8 spot.”
With Ellis in the mix, the Bucks went 12-11 down the stretch, but finished one spot and four games out of the Eastern Conference playoffs. A year later, Milwaukee is in position to grab that No. 8 seed, even if it is only to serve as first-round fodder for the juggernaut Miami Heat.
Milwaukee (30-29) has an eight-game lead over Toronto for the final playoff spot and Ellis leads the Bucks in scoring at 18.8 points per game.
Ellis has gone for 25.6 points per game over the last five, and Milwauke has gone 4-1. The Bucks fell 117-101 at the Clippers on Wednesday.
During his six-plus years as a Warrior, Ellis was a fan favorite, but the combination of him and Curry in the backcourt didn’t translate to success as a team. When Klay Thompson, at 6-foot-7, emerged so quickly as a capable shooting guard in his rookie year, it became obvious that Ellis was the asset that made the most sense to move.
It was a gamble to chase Bogut due to his ongoing injury problems, but even with a limited return from Bogut, there were other gains from the trade.
The trade effectively took away the Warriors’ best healthy player, which contributed to the team’s drop to the seventh-worst record in the NBA, allowing it to hang onto its protected first-round draft pick. That pick was used on Harrison Barnes, who has started 62 of the team’s 63 games this year, averaging 9.0 points and 4.0 rebounds a game.
It also landed the No. 30 pick, which was used to draft Festus Ezeli. Ezeli has started 39 of 59 games and shown flashes that he can be an elite NBA defender and rebounder.
“We wouldn’t have had Ezeli, maybe we wouldn’t have Barnes,” Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob said on KNBR 680. “We wouldn’t have Klay Thompson gaining the confidence that he’s getting, doing the job he’s doing playing in the backcourt with Curry. Maybe Curry doesn’t have the same year.
“It’s hard to pick these things apart in retrospect, I can just tell you that when you can go big for small, you got to do it and Andrew Bogut will be healthy.”
Bogut has missed 48 of 63 games this year due to recovery from microfracture surgery in his ankle and a protruding disk in his back. He also did not play the final 27 games of the 2011-2012 season after the Warriors made the trade to acquire him.
Even without a fully healthy Bogut, Golden State is clearly now a better team. So is Milwaukee. Win, win.