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Monta Ellis dazzles in Dallas debut

DALLAS -- Monta Ellis set the standard awfully high in his Dallas Mavericks debut.

“I can hold up to it,” Ellis said after slicing up the Atlanta Hawks for 32 points and eight assists in a 118-109 win Wednesday night. “You’ll see.”

Nobody can reasonably expect Ellis to put up those kinds of numbers on a consistent basis, but the Mavericks are counting on Dirk Nowitzki’s new sidekick to play with that kind of aggression all the time.

Ellis, enjoying the newfound luxury of the extra space that comes with running the pick-and-pop with the sweetest-shooting 7-footer in the history of the sport, had an excellent shooting night. He was 11-of-17 from the floor, with most of his buckets coming on open jumpers. But he’s open that often in large part because he’s such a dangerous threat to drive, which he did well when the opportunities arise, resulting in his eight dimes and eight free throws.

“That’s what he has to do for us all season long,” said Nowitzki, who was fed by Ellis for half of his eight buckets during a 24-point performance. “Be aggressive.”

Added Vince Carter, who provided 21 points off the pine: “That’s just who he is. He’s an attacker. He attacks the rim. He puts pressure on the defense. It’s going to help him and help our team because we’ve got so many guys who can knock down shots. While he’s getting to the basket and a willing passer like he’s been, anything can happen.”

Ellis didn’t get the money he wanted in free agency, settling for a three-year, $25 million deal after turning down a much richer offer to stay in Milwaukee, but he’s thrilled to be on a team with so many offensive weapons that complement him.

Ellis, whose efficiency plummeted while having to constantly create in a stagnant offense in Milwaukee, has never played with anyone who demands anything close to as much defensive attention as Nowitzki. He has never played with a pass-first point guard like Jose Calderon, who had 11 assists in his Dallas debut. And Vince Carter (21 points) joins Nowitzki and Calderon as knockdown shooters who are drive-and-kick options for Ellis when defenses collapse on him.

“I’ve loved my team since the day I signed,” said Ellis, who scored the most points of any player making his Mavs debut in franchise history. “I think we put a great group of guys together. We came out and played Mavs basketball. We played together, made some mistakes and stuck with it.”

The mistakes for Ellis were at least aggressive ones. He committed seven turnovers, far too many. Those will surely be the subject of scrutiny during Thursday’s film session, but they’re easy to forgive after Ellis’ otherwise phenomenal opener.