October 6, 1997
Once, he was the top pick in the NBA draft, an athletic scorer, rebounder and shot blocker of great potential.
Injuries kept him from fulfilling that. But with the Boston Celtics embarking on a new era - the Rick Pitino era - Ellison is ready for a new start in his third season with the team.
"Out-of-Service Pervis" is back at work.
"My whole concern is that I feel good," he said at training camp. "I think everything else is going to take care of itself because I know what I can do on the court."
As the oldest player on a young team, the 30-year-old center could provide leadership and an inside presence on a team rebuilding after the worst season in its history.
When he was a freshman at Louisville, Ellison led his team to a national title and was voted the NCAA tournament's outstanding player. After his senior year, he was drafted first overall by Sacramento in 1989.
Then, before his first NBA game, bone spurs were removed from his right foot and ankle.
In his third season, he was the NBA's most improved player with Washington. But he missed 33 games the next year with a strained left knee. After the season, he had surgery on both knees that kept him on the injured list when the 1993-94 season started.
He joined Boston as a free agent in August 1994 but played only six games last season. His season ended Nov. 22 while he was sitting in the home of teammate Greg Minor. A table top that movers had placed on its base slid off and dropped on his big right toe.
"Evidently, they didn't set it evenly," Ellison said. "That is crazy."
"People have been jabbing at Pervis the last couple of years. They call him 'Out-of-Service-Pervis,' " Celtics guard Dee Brown said. "Pervis is our trump card. We really need Pervis."
But there was some question if Pitino, who has kept only five of last season's players, wanted him back. Boston has 14 players under contract and can keep 12.
"He said it's going to be tough on everybody," Ellison said. "But if you come in and work as hard as you can work, it's going to be great."
Pitino thinks Ellison can help Boston's new up-tempo attack and aggressive defense.
"He was the No. 1 pick in the draft. He won a college championship and that's what I choose to remember about him," Pitino said. "When I met him, I shook his hand and I said, 'I'm pleased to coach you. You're playing 82 games.' "
Ellison has averaged just 50 games in his eight seasons and played more than 70 only once. His best season was 1991-92 when he averaged 20 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. In his five seasons since, he has averaged fewer than 8 points four times.
Ellison has been knocked for lacking toughness, but Brown thinks things will change under Pitino.
"Whatever he's got to get out of Pervis, I think he will," Brown said. "Pervis has bulked up a little bit. Hopefully, Pervis can run with that weight."
With two healthy legs, at least he can run.
"There's a lot of players who had injuries and played through it and played in All-Star seasons," Ellison said. "I'm a guy that didn't do it. Now it's a new season and I think I can play a big role on this team."