Christmas came early for a young NBA hopeful this weekend.
Alright, sorry about the extremely cheesy pun, but there really is a nice story coming out of the Celtics camp today after the team finished up its 2012 Summer League schedule this past weekend.
According to a team source, the Celtics have signed 25-year-old Summer League standout, Dionte Christmas, to a partially guaranteed contract for next season.
After going undrafted in 2009 after four years at Temple, Christmas finally got his chance to shine this summer. The young guard averaged 14.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.2 assists for the Celtics’ summer squad, and he was easily the team’s best player throughout the past few weeks along with rookie big man Jared Sullinger.
After spending the last three seasons overseas, Christmas had continued to receive solid offers from many European clubs in recent weeks, but after some deep soul-searching, he decided that he would take a risk and hope his dream of one day playing in the NBA would finally come true this year.
"Coming from where I came from and grinding, playing for lower teams for a little bit of money to getting [significant] offers, it's tough to ignore that," said Christmas. "But at the end of the day, I had a long talk with my dad [on Friday] night, and he's like my brother, one of the guys I go to when I'm feeling like I need someone to talk to about my situation. He just said, 'Chase your dream. You know, you got this far. Why stop here?' That's all I really needed, was for him to say that, and I'm just waiting for the right offer from an NBA team and I'm going to go for it."
Of course the signing does not guarantee that Christmas will be a big part of the team next season. As previously mentioned, it is only a partially guaranteed contract, which means that Christmas still needs to have a strong training camp in order to make the regular season roster.
With the Celtics already putting together a pretty solid roster via free agency this offseason—even after the loss of Ray Allen—it will certainly be a tough task for Christmas to accomplish. But after seeing the type of heart and guts this kid possesses, it would not be at all surprising to see Christmas sitting on the Celtics bench when they tip-off the 2012 NBA season.
Another asset that is furthering his chances of making the team is the fact that Christmas actually has a skill set that the Celtics have been desperately lacking off of their bench for the past couple of seasons.
Though the team has brought in many veteran swingmen throughout the past couple of seasons (i.e. Mickael Pietrus, Sasha Pavlovic, Marquis Daniels, Michael Finley, etc.), none of them have truly been able to establish themselves as a solid backup scorer behind Paul Pierce. While they all provided great defense, none of them were able to put up consistent points off the bench at any time.
Christmas can provide those points.
In Summer League play, Christmas not only showed a solid ability to get to the rim, but he also showed off his terrific shooting skills. He shot a very impressive 47.9 percent from the field, including an even more impressive 45 percent clip from three-point range. If he can continue to put up percentages that are even close to the ones he shot this summer then he will be an extremely valuable asset to the Celtics bench next season.
Furthermore, Christmas can also provide the type of defense expected from any player hoping to be a key part of the Celtics rotation. Though he is not necessarily a lock-down defender, he demonstrated an ability, and outright willingness, to take on the opposing team's best player throughout the Summer League season.
Celtics Summer League head coach Tyronn Lue has continued to pile praise onto Christmas in recent weeks, and he summed up the young guard’s overall performance by saying, “He’s showing you every night he can do more and more things. He guards the best player every night, he can pass the ball and make the right play assist-wise, he rebounds the ball, he can score, he can do everything. I think he’d be a good guy to pick up.”
Those words coupled with Christmas’ strong will were finally able to land him the contract that he had always dreamed of.
But again, much work lies ahead for the young player if he wishes to cement his status as an NBA player. Not only will he have to battle it out with experienced veterans in training camp, but he will also need to prepare himself for much tougher competition than he faced during the Summer League season.
After all, the Summer League is made up of inexperienced rookies and below-average journeymen that have yet to be able find a roster spot in the NBA, so it will be interesting to see if he is actually able continue his recent success against the likes of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in an extremely tough Eastern Conference.
But apparently the Celtics brass has a lot of faith in the young guard, and perhaps its time for the rest of Celtics Nation to recognize this young player and feel the same way.