He remembers exactly where he
was Jan. 7, when his NBA contract became guaranteed for the remainder of this
“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.’”
Labels: Dionte Christmas, Lavoy Allen, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns