After weeks of flirting, the Boston Celtics finally landed Courtney Lee from the Houston Rockets for JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Sean Williams, Sasha Pavlovic and a second-round draft pick in a sign-and-trade that was first reported yesterday afternoon (from the Boston Herald). Details are expected to be finalized later today.
It was a move that left the Boston faithful rejoicing, knowing that the Celtics took yet another vital step towards solidifying a roster that can deliver the city an 18th NBA championship.
However, the Celtics weren’t the only ones taking strides towards the ultimate goal. Summer Leaguer Dionte Christmas found himself even closer to finally realizing his childhood dream of playing in the NBA.
Before news of the deal broke, it was looking more and more likely that the Celtics’ Summer League standout E’Twaun Moore would be the one getting his contract guaranteed by Sunday’s deadline. While boasting an impressive Summer League resume himself, Christmas was most likely expected to be left out in the cold as the deadline passed.
With Moore’s departure, all that is set to change.
Now, Christmas is looking more and more likely to be the candidate called up to help the Celtics with their depth issues at guard. Worst-case scenario, he’s expected to at least garner an invitation to training camp.
“We’ve been talking to Dionte,” said Celtics’ president Danny Ainge (via the Boston Herald). “We’ll continue to. Yes, we’d like to see him [at training camp].”
While it's great news, it’s a position the 25-year-old former Temple Owl has been in before.
After going undrafted in 2009, Christmas received a training camp invite from his hometown Philadelphia 76ers. However, he was later waived.
Rejection was hard to take for someone who was used to so much success.
In his four years at Temple, Christmas was instrumental in helping the Owls put an end to a seven-year drought from the NCAA Tournament. He netted 2,043 points, drained a school-record 319 three-pointers and helped the team claim two Atlantic 10 Conference championships.
After being waived, Christmas hoped to continue his collegiate success overseas.
His trek began with a stint at Israel during the 2009-10 season. He went on to make appearances in the Czech Republic and in Greece. Most recently, he averaged 18.6 points per game with Rethymno B.C. of the Greek HEBA A1 league.
Now, with a second shot at making it to the NBA on the horizon, Christmas believes his time overseas has him well-equipped.
“I thought I was ready, honestly,” he said (via WEEI). “As you can see, I wasn’t. I thought I was and looking back now and the way I’m playing now and the things I’m seeing now, I wasn’t ready. Those two or three years overseas got me prepared. Today, if I was to play in an NBA game I could be very productive.”
His stats this summer seem to back up that kind of talk.
In eight appearances with the Celtics, Christmas has averaged 13.6 points per game on 47 percent shooting. In what has become known as a shot-happy league, as players strive to get noticed, Christmas’ 5.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game are rather impressive. In his last four games, Christmas has seemed to settle into a rhythm, averaging 17.3 points per game.
With multiple contract offers from teams overseas expected to come his way, Christmas is left with a difficult decision. Does he take the money or continue chasing after his childhood dream?
The answer is simple for Christmas.
“There’s a lot of guys that made it coming through the backdoor, but it’s rare,” he said. “I think some guys just give up. They say, ‘I’ll play overseas, the NBA isn’t looking for me, I’m not good enough.’ Once they get cut some of those guys they relax.
“This is my dream, man. Even if this doesn’t work out this year, you’re going to see me in summer league next year and the next year until I feel as though I’m done. I think I’ve got some years until I get in this league.”
It’s an attitude that if he keeps up, might just find Boston celebrating Christmas early this year.
Now, wouldn’t that be nice?