As a Temple University alumni, I was stoked when I saw that Dionte Christmas was signed to the Boston Celtics’ training day roster. Christmas played four years as a Temple Owl and always had the ability to shoot the lights out, hitting 36 percent of his three point attempts throughout his college career. The two-time first team all Atlantic-10 member was a prolific scorer in college, averaging 20.0, 19.7 and 19.5 points a game respectively in his final three seasons at Temple.
Despite his college success, Christmas went undrafted in 2009. He was invited to play with his hometown Philadelphia 76ers summer league team in Orlando and also spent time with the Los Angeles Clippers on their Las Vegas summer league squad. None of those opportunities stuck however and Dionte became a bit of a basketball nomad for the next three seasons, playing abroad in Israel, Turkey and Greece.
To his credit, Dionte worked hard on his game over the past three seasons overseas and never gave up on his dream of being signed to an NBA team one day. Some knocks on his game coming out of Temple included the need to improve his ball handling and that he needed to get stronger. It was evident watching Christmas play in summer league that he had heard the critics, showcasing an improved handle and more chiseled physique. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for one of Boston’s final summer league games in Las Vegas against the Milwaukee Bucks where Dionte displayed his all-around arsenal for the Celtics brass. Though Boston lost the game 88-87, it left a lasting impression on myself that Dionte Christmas could absolutely play in the NBA.
Boston’s front office apparently agreed when they signed Christmas to a partially guaranteed two-year contract after his performance in Las Vegas. Christmas shot very well out in Sin City hitting 47.9 percent from the field and a blistering 45 percent from 3-point range. He averaged 14.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
Though he is naturally a shooting guard Christmas played some point this past summer and proved to be adept at setting up his teammates. The Celtics back court is crowded with Rajon Rondo, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley though the unexpected retirement of Keyon Dooling opens up a roster spot. He is also tall enough at 6’5” to play the small forward position in spurts and this versatility can help him make the final cut. Minutes will be tough to come by in the Celtics current rotation but Christmas’ shooting skills are something he has going for him. Rookie Kris Joseph and Jamar Smith are Dionte’s biggest competition for one of the final Celtics roster spots. As of now, Boston has 13 roster spots taken with the recent acquisition of Darko Milicic.
Still only 26 years old, the best basketball of Christmas’ career is likely still ahead of him. He is a proven scorer and has already impressed Jason Terry and Paul Pierce with his shooting prowess. Assistant Coach Tyronn Lue has also sang Christmas’ praises which can’t hurt his case. As the Celtics kick off training camp in Istanbul, Turkey where Christmas played for eight months, Dionte is looking to make the most of this NBA opportunity. He turned down bigger contracts from European clubs to pursue his dream and judging by the work he has put into his game the past three seasons, I would not bet against Dionte making the Celtics final roster.