The Black Swan

Every year when the Oscars roll around there is always one acting category that is so loaded with amazing turns that it leads to a deserving performance getting left out completely and an actor or actress not even being nominated. It’s happened to Jim Carrey (The Truman Show, Man on the Moon, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Christian Bale (American Psycho, Rescue Dawn) and Amy Adams (Enchanted, seriously, watch that movie and tell me she didn’t deserve at least a nomination).

Last year, for the 2009 slate of movies, it was the Best Supporting Actress category. Melanie Laurent suffered a cruel fate after turning in a great performance in Inglorious Basterds. In case you don’t recognize her name, she played Shoshanna, the Jewish refugee who flees to France and assumes another identity to avoid persecution. In a movie that relied so heavily on striking visuals and on Tarantino’s trademark witty dialogue, she was the heart of the movie. Also falling under the Shoulda Been A Contender umbrella was Marion Cotillard in Nine. While most saw it as a leading role it was really just a knockout supporting performance, lovely and haunting, she missed out because there was nothing flashy or sexy (except Marion herself) about the role. Mo’Nique won the statue for Supporting Actress and while deserved, when the seventh female lead from Soul Plane is taking one of the five nomination spots the category gets that much deeper, if that makes sense.

(By the way, three years ago if you were to make a list of people most likely to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress Mo’Nique would’ve placed right below Paula Abdul and right above Megan Fox. I’m prepared for anyone to win an Oscar at this point. Andy Samberg? Kristen Stewart? PeeWee Herman? Hit me with it. I’ll be ready.)

What I’m trying to say here is that the Western All-Star roster is like the Oscars and the guards category is 2009 Best Supporting Actress. There have been so many great performances the first half of the season there are going to be at least three or four snubs. Deron Williams has been the best point guard out West so far this season and Kobe has been slightly less than what he usually is, which is still better than everyone else. Manu is having a great bounce back year and if starting were based on merit and not votes he would get the start over Kobe. A (relatively) healthy Chris Paul is showing us that he can still carry an entire team on his back and Russel Westbrook has turned into a top 15 player. Tony Parker is playing at a higher level than at anytime in the past three years and Eric Gordon is almost as responsible for the Clippers culture change as Griffin is.

All of those previously mentioned have a shot at making the team and the one guy who will get dismissed because of the team and system he plays for is Monta Ellis. Ellis is putting up great numbers as a volume shooter on a mediocre team and is putting up career best numbers in every category as a starter. Not just conventional stats either. His true shooting percentage is higher than ever as is his assist percentage. He’s getting to the rim more than ever before and is on pace to shoot more than 100 more free throws than last year. On top of that he’s shooting better from three than he has his entire career already sinking 71 treys, on 40% shooting, after hitting only 77 all of last season. His shot selection isn’t always great and he does take a ton of shots, true, but other than Curry and Lee there is there anyone else on that team worthy of shooting the basketball? Dorrel Wright, if he’s hot? Andris Biedrins? Former D-Leaguer Reggie Williams?

His critics will point that he doesn’t play defense and that he isn’t a true leader but let’s save those points for when people start mentioning Ellis as an MVP. For now, his numbers point to him being an All-Star. He’s averaging more points, shooting a higher percentage from the field and from three than Ginobli, Kobe, Westbrook, Williams, and Eric Gordon.

It’s not just numbers though. Watch him play. Many people say Carmelo is the most effortless scorer in the league. If that is true, and I’m inclined to agree, then you must say that Ellis is the most ‘effort’ scorer in the league. You watch him play a half and see that he has twelve points but you swear he should have twenty. The way he gets his points typically goes like this:

Roll off a pick, change direction about three times, maneuver into the lane, elevate, elevate some more, drift right, change the angle of his release, take some contact, float the ball into the hoop, land and slide three feet across the court.

He’s like a ballerina out there. He’s controlled and graceful when he crashes the lane. He’s elegant the way he hangs in the air for seemingly an eternity before he releases the ball from an impossible angle. Even his misses are beautiful in a sense.  He is impossible to stay in front of and has a pretty good mid-range game to go along with his attack the rim style.

As likely as he is to end up like Melanie Laurent or Marion Cotillard, I’d argue that Ellis is turning in a stunning performance, not unlike this years Oscar favorite Natalie Portman. Graceful, elegant, brash, passionate, and theatrical. Monta Ellis, The Black Swan.

Hate it? Abhor it? Another synonym for dislike it? Hit the comments below and let me know. Follow me on Twitter @stefanhynes

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Daniel on January 21, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    I like this analogy, you can take it a step further as well. Monta is also like the Black Swan in that he is aggressive as hell. You say he is controlled and graceful when he crashes the lane, that is White Swan style, I’ve seen Monta live about 8 times this season and he is a nasty s.o.b. when he crashes that lane (Like when he dunked on Turiaf). He puts his head down like a ram and hits seams RUTHLESSLY; a lot like a half-back would. He’s a beast, more attack than grace, imo. Also look at what he did too Branden Rush. I was at that game and saw him STARE into Rush’s eyes for ten seconds, literally scaring the pi$$ out of him. That’s Black Swan style.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Kofi on January 31, 2011 at 12:09 am

    “Roll off a pick, change direction about three times, maneuver into the lane, elevate, elevate some more, drift right, change the angle of his release, take some contact, float the ball into the hoop, land and slide three feet across the court.” LOL that is classic Monta Ellis. Glad to see he has some supporters. Nice article.

    Reply

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