My little brother Petey went on a growth spurt recently. Suddenly, his jeans stop at his upper ankles and his shorts barely cover his thighs. His t-shirts that once sagged off his body now look like they might burst at the seams any minute. In mere months, he morphed from an undersized point guard into a post-up threat. Because I see him frequently, his transformation doesn’t shock me. But everyone who sees him for the first time in awhile proclaims, “Damn, Petey. You got tall.”
I hadn’t seen Dionte Christmas play in years before he surfaced on the Boston Celtics’ summer league play. In the first game he played, I instantly saw that his game had grown so much that his jeans were stopping at his upper ankles and his shorts barely covered his thighs. I’m sure those who witnessed his growth on a more frequent basis weren’t nearly as surprised as I was. But I saw Christmas’ game and proclaimed, “Damn, Dionte’s game. You got tall.”
Christmas used to be just a shooter and scorer. Now he prides himself on defending the opponent’s best player and his creating skills have improved significantly. He rebounded quite well for his position (6.2 rebounds per game in Orlando, 4.4 in Vegas) and can still score, either in half court or transition. I had reservations about how his skills will translate to the NBA, and I still have those now that he’s signed a partially guaranteed contract with the Celtics. But to see Christmas now, three years after he graduated from Temple, is to know just how hard he works to hone his craft.
Nobody gave Christmas a guaranteed contract out of college and told him he was financially set for the foreseeable future. He grinded in European leagues, out of sight, out of mind, and worked to keep his dream alive. That dream isn’t fully realized yet, but Christmas has a very good chance to stick in Boston. His father convinced him fighting for his dream was worth it even as big overseas offers arrived. (CSNNE)
“I was pretty close, I was pretty close,” he said of signing overseas. “But I talked to my dad two nights ago and I was telling him the offers I got overseas and asked basically if it was worth it. My dad was like, ‘Keep chasing your dream. Don’t give up. Keep going for your dream. We’re not a poor family. Me and your mom are cool and you’re cool. It’s not about the money all the time. Just keep chasing your dream.’
“That was basically all I needed to hear. That kind of put me over the top, whether I got something from Boston or if somebody was going to take a leap on me, I’m going to go with them. I came this far, I didn’t want to give up.”
Do you want to root for Christmas? Check his Twitter feed or read the following quote from Jessica Camerato’s piece on CSNNE:
“I basically showed them everything,” he said. “Most of all, I think I have a Boston Celtics style of play. I’m not talking about scoring, I’m talking about I’m very energetic, I’m vocal, I like to get in people’s space and play defense. I just like competition. I love to get under the opposing team’s skin. I have that Celtics type of play and I think they saw that. They saw that I was hungry and they saw that I wanted it. By me showing I could do everything like pass and rebound, they already knew I could score, but seeing me do everything, I think that really put it over the top. That right there showed the growth in my game by going overseas.”
Chances are that Christmas will never become an NBA star. He’s not even guaranteed to make the opening day roster. But damn, his game has gotten tall.