OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -The Golden State Warriors made sure they would have Monta Ellis in their backcourt at least for the near future, re-signing the explosive guard to a multiyear contract Thursday.
Ellis, who was a restricted free agent, is expected to take over at point guard next season in Don Nelson's up-tempo offense after two-time All-Star Baron Davis opted out of his contract earlier this month to join his hometown team, the Los Angeles Clippers.
``We are absolutely thrilled to have Monta under contract for the next several years,'' said Chris Mullin, Golden State's executive vice president of basketball operations. ``He has been one of the top young players in the NBA for the last two years and enjoyed a tremendous season last year. The growth that he has demonstrated at such a young age is incredible and we look forward to him playing a big part in our future success.''
The 22-year-old Ellis, selected out of high school in the second round of the 2005 NBA draft, averaged career bests of 20.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.53 steals in 37.9 minutes and 81 games last season. He was named the NBA's Most Improved Player after the 2006-07 campaign.
Mullin has been working furiously to upgrade his roster - and knows he has no choice considering the Warriors play in the power-packed Western Conference.
Golden State, the first 48-victory NBA team not to make the playoffs this past season, is coming off consecutive winning seasons for the first time in 16 years. Yet the Warriors' best season in 14 years wasn't enough to make it to the postseason after the team advanced to the second round in 2007.
Earlier Thursday, the Warriors announced that shooting guard Kelenna Azubuike would return after the club matched the Clippers' three-year, $9 million offer sheet.
Azubuike averaged 8.1 points and 4.0 rebounds in 81 games last season with the Warriors, who signed the former Kentucky guard out of the NBA Developmental League in January 2007. He started 17 games for Golden State, and he should see more playing time next season after Davis' departure, Mickael Pietrus' signing with Orlando and Ellis' expected move to point guard.
``We are pleased to have Kelenna back in the fold,'' Mullin said. ``He's a young and talented player who has continued to improve during his two seasons with our team. His versatility, athleticism and ability to shoot the 3-pointer certainly fit our style of play.''
Azubuike, a restricted free agent, signed the offer sheet with the Clippers last Friday, giving Golden State seven days to match it. The Warriors, who earlier signed high-scoring free agent swingman Corey Maggette from the Clippers, also signed forward Ronny Turiaf away from the Lakers last week with a similar offer-sheet deal.
Golden State also signed forward Richard Hendrix, its second-round pick in last month's draft.

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