The Golden State Warriors won't have Baron Davis or Monta Ellis in their starting lineup on opening night.
In the latest blow during a difficult summer for Golden State, ESPN.com has learned that Ellis -- just awarded one of the biggest pay raises in league history -- will be sidelined at least three months, possibly four, after suffering a severe high ankle sprain in his hometown of Jackson, Miss.
Ellis was scheduled to undergo surgery on his left ankle in Alabama on Wednesday, according to team sources, after he informed the club late last week that he had injured himself working out. More specifics about how Ellis sustained the injury were not immediately available.
Surgery is needed to repair a torn deltoid ligament, sources said, and the foot will need to be immobilized for the first six weeks.
It was less than a month ago that Ellis received a six-year, $66 million contract extension from the Warriors, whose tumultuous offseason began with Davis making a verbal commitment to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers on the very first day of free agency.
The contract calls for Ellis to earn a flat $11 million in each of the next six seasons. He made just $770,610 last season, the final year in a modest three-year deal he received as a second-round pick in 2005.
Golden State, which failed to reach the playoffs last season, insisted that it achieved its top two offseason priorities by re-signing Ellis and fellow restricted free agent Andris Biedrins.
The Warriors were nonetheless stunned by the sudden nature of Davis' departure -- as Davis initially was expected not to opt out of the final year of his contract -- and now have likely lost the prolific guard expected to inherit much of Davis' scoring responsibilities until December at the earliest.
The Warriors responded to Davis' exit by signing swingman Corey Maggette away from the Clippers to join co-captain Stephen Jackson, and by signing Los Angeles Lakers restricted free agent Ronny Turiaf to add bulk on their front line.
They also matched the Clippers' offer sheet to retain restricted free agent Kelenna Azubuike and acquired backup point guard Marcus Williams in a trade with New Jersey. The Warriors are likewise extremely high on first-round draft pick Anthony Randolph, and thus did little to prevent forwards Mickael Pietrus (Orlando) and Matt Barnes (Phoenix) from following Davis out the door.
It remains possible that the Warriors could trade forward Al Harrington before the start of the season, with Harrington reportedly open to a move. Yet there's really no replicating what Ellis provides for the Warriors, especially given coach Don Nelson's plans to use Ellis regularly at point guard after playing him primarily as a shooting guard in Ellis' first three pro seasons.
Ellis, 22, seemed to understand his importance to the team's post-Baron future when Ellis shared at a news conference in late July that Davis recently "told me it was time to hand over the torch."
Ellis averaged 20.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists last season. He won NBA Most Improved Player honors in the 2006-07 season, averaging 16.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
The only solace for the Warriors is that Ellis does have a history of making strong, fast recoveries from major injuries. He slipped to No. 40 in the 2005 draft, in spite of a decorated high school career, because of a knee problem.
But he has since proven more productive in the NBA than any of the 10 players drafted out of high school that year, which was the last time high school players were eligible to be selected. That group includes No. 6 overall pick Martell Webster (Portland); No. 10 Andrew Bynum (Los Angeles Lakers); and No. 18 Gerald Green (drafted by Boston, now with Dallas).
Ellis suffered what initially appeared to be a serious knee injury during a summer-league practice in 2006, and endured an even scarier fall early in training camp last October that resulted in a neck sprain and required Ellis to be immobilized and carted off the court.
In both cases, though, Ellis missed minimal time. He appeared in 77 and 81 games, respectively, after the two injuries.
Ellis is also known for his boundless confidence, as evidenced when he scoffed at reporters' recent suggestions that the switch from shooting guard to the point will be a problem.
"I'm going to improve every part of my game," Ellis said last month. "That's what I do. That's why I play basketball . . . to improve and to become the best player [who] ever touched a basketball."