With one final spot left on the Boston Celtics roster, things are getting down to the wire. Dionte Christmas, Jamar Smith and Kris Joseph are battling it out in training camp to prove they each deserve the last spot on the team—but only one will prevail.
Christmas is a 6'5", 205-pound shooting guard from Temple University. The 25-year-old spent the last three seasons away from the United States playing overseas, but returned to the States for the NBA Summer League. Christmas impressed the Celtics so much during his summer campaign that he earned a partially guaranteed contract with the team.
In the Summer League, Christmas averaged an outstanding 14.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. Christmas also turned heads by shooting 47.9 percent from the field and 45 percent from the three-point line. However, success in the Summer League doesn't necessarily translate to equal success on the official team.
Christmas played limited minutes in the two exhibition games in Istanbul and Milan. He is averaging eight minutes per game in the preseason, only getting floor time when head coach Doc Rivers decides to unleash the bench late in games. However, Christmas has still managed to score 4.5 points per game.
Although Christmas hasn't seen much action in games, his presence in practices has gotten the attention of Rivers. According to the Boston Herald, Christmas was singled out by the coach for failed rotations and errant moves but continued to ask questions at the front of the huddles in hopes to improve.
When asked about Christmas, Rivers said:
"What opens my eyes is solid play at the end of the day. He does have great energy, and he's a tough kid, but other than that it's basketball IQ and how he fits with this group of guys."
Jamar Smith is another guard hoping to make the final cut. Standing at 6'3" and 185 pounds, Smith can play both guard positions, which gives him an edge on his competition.
Smith spent last year playing in the Czech Republic, but he is no stranger to the Boston Celtics. The combo guard was a member of the D-League's Maine Red Claws in the 2010-11 season, where he averaged 13.6 points, five assists and roughly one steal per game.
Due to the recent departure of Keyon Dooling, the C's need another point guard to serve as Rajon Rondo's backup. Doc Rivers spoke to Comcast SportsNet New England about how Dooling's retirement affects the team. Rivers said:
"Even as a coach, I don't think you realize it, that it's a loss, until you see it on the floor in a game and you realize, 'that's a bigger loss than I thought.'" Rivers added, "I'm hoping we can figure that out without going out and getting another body. Jamar has a chance."
Smith has averaged two points over 12 minutes per game in the preseason. He's going to have to play better if he wants the final roster spot. The Celtics need another point guard, but they are not going to settle for one who doesn't play up to NBA standards.
The final prospect, Kris Joseph, resides in the frontcourt. A second-round draft pick from Syracuse, Joseph plays the small forward position, which means he would back up Paul Pierce and Jeff Green.
The rookie led Syracuse in scoring his senior year, but he's not a volume scorer. He struggled with being aggressive during the Summer League but still managed to average eight points and 2.4 rebounds per game.
Coach Rivers called Joseph the "biggest surprise" of the summer. However, he hasn't been able to make the same impact in the preseason. In the two exhibition games, Joseph averaged one point in 5.5 minutes per game.
Although preseason games hold a lot of weight, practices are even more important to Doc Rivers. He told Boston Herald:
"That's where the real evaluation comes in. Because everyone plays in practice. In games they play different minutes. I try to mix some of those guys with some of the starters, because they don't get much chance to play with the starters in practice, where if it was a real game they would."
Of the three players competing for the final roster spot, Dionte Christmas is the clear-cut favorite. He has shown the most promise and best all-around game. Even though he's not playing significant minutes in the preseason, he is the most complete player of the three.
Therefore, Christmas will most likely survive the final round of cuts.