According to a report by Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, Monta Ellis and Larry Sanders nearly came to blows in the locker room following their home playoff loss in Game 3 against Miami. From Berger’s story:
Though the players had to be separated, the dust-up didn’t get serious enough to trigger disciplinary action for either player. One source described the confrontation as “just words between teammates in the locker room.”
Ellis “took umbrage,” according to another person with knowledge of the situation. Correctly assuming that Sanders’ comments were directed primarily at him and backcourt mate Brandon Jennings, who both are prospective free agents, Ellis approached Sanders and squared off with him, sources said. A teammate got between the two players and separated them before the conflict became physical.
Given that Ellis is the Bucks’ best offensive weapon and that Sanders is their best defender and most valuable asset, Milwaukee may have a problem. Complicating matters is the fact that Sanders is under contract for next season and that Ellis has a player option for 2013-14. Monta may put feelers out over the next month and decide that staying put for $11 million next season is his best financial option. A pairing of the two next season is a real possibility.
In the larger scope of things, though, one dustup doesn’t mean much. If there is evidence of a larger trend of animus between the two, then the Bucks have something to worry about.
There were definite chemistry issues on the Bucks following the J.J. Redick trade. Brandon Jennings pouted when Jim Boylan shorted his minutes. Rumors of Redick’s unhappiness abounded. Mike Dunleavy took to vacant glazes and frustrated quotes. Monta almost deliberately seemed to pick up his game when he took the court without Jennings.
But the fact that tempers flared following the most disappointing loss of the season? That’s not really a surprise at all.
One last part of the Berger story merits a mention:
Oddly, a member of the proposed ownership group trying to keep the Kings in Sacramento has done some background checking on Ellis as a possibility for the Kings if the team decides to part ways with restricted free agent Tyreke Evans this summer, a league source involved in the discussions said.
So the new Sacramento ownership group 1) kept Seattle hungry for a team by holding onto the Kings, 2) surrendered a huge chunk of future cash from luxury tax payouts, and 3) snooped around one of Milwaukee’s three-best players, one who is still under contract with the Bucks. It’s like these guys have it out for Milwaukee. Yikes.