What has been absent is continuity in Ellis's game. He admits that he came back too soon from his surgery on the tendon last April—he shocked everyone by suiting up on opening night—and suffered another blow when he learned in early February that team vice president Allan Bristow was shopping him around. Nuggets owner Charlie Lyons intervened and called Ellis to tell him he wasn't going anywhere. Then he fired Bristow.
Teams that covet the 6'8", 240-pound Ellis—such as the Rockets and the Pacers—wonder why he is being used so much on the perimeter instead of in the post, where he has often overpowered other small forwards. "I have asked the same thing time and time again," Ellis says. "Who knows? I haven't shot the ball well. I never found my niche in our offense."
Team and league sources expect first-year coach Bill Hanzlik to be replaced at the end of the season. Veteran guard Bryant Stith, who has three years left on his contract, wondered aloud last week if it was also time for him to move on. But Ellis, who is free to walk, says he wants to be part of Denver's turnaround. "It's not just about basketball," he says. "It's about a community my family loves and a franchise that's a part of me. I know the Denver Nuggets are better than this." So is Ellis.
Line of the Week
Portland Pickup Pays Dividends
Trail Blazers forward Brian Grant, April 3 versus the Mavericks: 44 minutes, 9-12 field goals, 2-4 free throws, 20 points, 20 rebounds. This was what Portland expected when it signed Grant, 26, to a seven-year, $63 million contract last August. His seven offensive boards helped build the Blazers' 44-29 margin on the glass in a 109-102 win.