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A Philadelphia 76ers blog, hosted by Christopher A. Vito

Monday, January 27, 2014

Temple product Dionte Christmas happy to be in town, in NBA with the Phoenix Suns

(Associated Press)

He remembers exactly where he was Jan. 7, when his NBA contract became guaranteed for the remainder of this season.

“We were in Chicago,” the Phoenix Suns’ Dionte Christmas said. “And I was waiting. I knew that day was the day. I had worked out on the court, and just talking to my teammates, they were saying, ‘Usually, they’ll call you into an office and talk.’ The owner and the GM were like, ‘Christmas, we want to talk to you.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, man. Not again. Same old story.’ So I go back and they were playing a joke. They were like, ‘Your time here was good, but…we’re gonna keep you.’

“They pulled a joke on me, but it was a good one. It was probably one of the best days of my career. … It all came together in that moment. It felt good.”

It hasn’t been an ideal first NBA season for Christmas, who’s averaging 2.3 points, 1.2 rebounds and 6.7 minutes per game in 22 appearances with Phoenix. But it’s a living. And it’s not in Europe.

Christmas, a Temple graduate, cut his teeth everywhere on the map. In his first four seasons as a pro, he played in Israel, Turkey, Czech Republic, Greece, Russia and Italy. It was all in a bid to stay patient enough for an opportunity such as Monday’s, when he and the Suns came into his hometown of Philadelphia to face the 76ers.

“I remember my mom saying, ‘You can make it. These teams aren’t watching you for nothing,’” said Christmas, who procured more than 50 tickets for the game.

Christmas went as far as to ask his former Temple teammate, Sixers forward Lavoy Allen, and his Suns teammates Marcus and Markieff Morris for a few extra tickets to meet all of the requests he got.

Speaking of Allen, he remembers well his two seasons playing alongside Christmas with the Owls.

“He shot the ball a lot. Shot the ball a whole lot,” Allen said. “My main goal back them was rebounding Dionte’s misses. That was on the scouting report for other teams. I’m proud of him for making it this far. We’re the only two Temple guys in the NBA, so we’ve got to stick together. Hopefully there’s more coming.”

Added Christmas: “That was funny. I’m going to talk to him about that. I gave him the ball sometimes.”

While playing abroad for four seasons, after graduating from Temple in 2009, he said he gave thought “numerous times” to ending his career overseas. But between NBA summer-league appearances and training-camp stints, he stayed confident. He recalled a conversation he had with then-Boston coach Doc Rivers, after playing with the Celtics in their 2012 training camp.

“I played well in Boston, and me and Doc kept in touch,” Christmas said, “and after that, he said, ‘I’ll put my wallet on it,’ (that Christmas would play in the NBA). “When I played against LA this year, he said, ‘I told you.’”

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