Steinmetz: Warriors weigh options in Ellis saga

It’s obvious now that Monta Ellis didn’t injure his left ankle while working out in Jackson, Miss.

That’s what Ellis told the Warriors nearly three weeks ago when the injury occurred, but as the drips and drabs of information filter out, it’s clear that he lied to the franchise.

Of course, complicating matters is that Ellis recently signed a six-year, $66 million contract. No doubt, Ellis is going to feel a financial sting over his transgression.

What we don’t know yet is how much hurt Ellis is going to suffer. The problem the Warriors have is they have no idea about the extent of Ellis’ injury.

They don’t know if Ellis will be his spry-old self on Dec. 1 or if he’ll return later than that a different player or even if he’ll ever play again. Sure, the last option is remote, but still.

The Warriors would seem to have a few options here. Let’s take a look:

The Warriors could simply fine Ellis a significant amount of money and move on. After all, there is a close precedent here. Two years ago, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Vladimir Radmanovic separated his shoulder while skiing during the All-Star break.

Radmanovic initially told the team he was injured while slipping on ice. He eventually came clean and was fined $500,000. He missed approximately two months.

The problem, however, with levying a hard, fast fine right now on Ellis is that the Warriors have no idea when he will return. Ellis is set to earn $11 million this season.

What if Ellis misses the entire 2008-09 season? Would the Warriors really be OK with fining Ellis, say, $1 million, and then Ellis “gets” to walk away with $10 million for not playing this season?

The Warriors could also look into fining Ellis the amount of money equivalent to the number of games he misses because of the injury.

Under the type of scenario in which Ellis would miss the entire season, that would make the fine worth $11 million, obviously.

But that kind of penalty would get the NBA players’ union involved, and set the table for some bad, long-term blood between Ellis and the team.

The Warriors could try to void Ellis’ contract entirely. They likely aren’t thinking that at this time, but you better believe it’s in the back of their minds.

However, if the Warriors try to do that, it will have ramifications. It would not be a popular message to NBA players who might be considering playing for Golden State.

What the Warriors are unable to get a hold on right now is what kind of player Ellis will be upon his return. And the hard, cold truth of the matter is the extent of the injury is likely to correlate to the fine.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. E-mail him at msteinmetz@sfexaminer.com.

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