DALLAS -- Only one Maverick has played every game this season, and it seems to coach Rick Carlisle that Monta Ellis is “hell-bent” to play all 82.
“He’s going to play unless he has a compound fracture,” Carlisle said.
Even in that case, Ellis said he’d try to find a way to get on the floor.
Consider what happened on the Mavericks’ three-game trip before the All-Star break, with Ellis playing despite a strained hamstring, surprising Carlisle by even traveling with the team, much less suiting up.
Ellis’ competitive commitment continued during the Mavs’ back-to-back wins the past couple of nights, when he refused to sit out despite being sick enough that breathing bothered him.
Ellis doesn’t care about the milestone of playing every game for the second consecutive season. He just can’t stomach sitting out.
“I just hate sitting on the sideline,” Ellis said after logging 37 minutes in the Mavs’ 94-89 win Monday night over the Boston Celtics. “I’ve always been like that my whole life. I love the game of basketball so much that I can’t sit on the sideline and watch.
“If I have the ability to walk into the gym, I have the ability to go out on the court and play basketball. That’s just my mentality.”
Ellis’ game isn’t always pretty, as was the case the past two nights, when he was only 6-of-18 from the floor. But the Mavs appreciate that they can always count on Ellis -- who leads the Mavs in minutes and is called irreplaceable by Carlisle -- to be present.
“Monta have it all when it comes to pain threshold,” owner Mark Cuban said, playing off a famous line uttered by Ellis last year. “He’s a warrior. You ask him how he’s feeling: ‘I gotcha.’ You ask him if he’s hurt: ‘I gotcha.’ Some guys look for reasons to go the other way. Monta doesn’t need a reason.
“He’s in, and that speaks volumes about him.”
And the Mavs know Ellis will do everything he can to contribute, whether or not his shot is falling.
Ellis’ attacking style is a critical element to the Mavs’ offense. He ranks third in the NBA in drives per game (10.0), according to the league’s player tracking data, and leads the Mavs with 5.8 assists per game. He had seven assists against the Thunder on Sunday, more than making up for his off shooting night.
Ellis had a 17-point, seven-rebound, four-assist outing against the Celtics. He didn’t shoot well (4-of-11), but he hit a big 3-pointer with 2:16 remaining and a couple of clutch free throws to help seal the win.
But Ellis’ most impressive stat against Boston can’t be found in a box score. It was his three charges drawn. Those gritty plays epitomize the just-wanna-win attitude of a guy who desperately seeks playoff success after being part of only one postseason series win in his first eight NBA seasons.
That’s why Ellis can’t fathom taking a night off while the Mavs are fighting for a playoff spot.
“I always want to be out there to help my team win,” Ellis said. “Right now, I think we’re in a situation where everything counts, and I feel like I give my team a better chance. Even if I’m not scoring, I still give my team a better chance of winning if I’m out there on the floor.”