Chance with Suns was Sought-After Gift for Dionte Christmas
No Phoenix Sun experienced a longer offseason than Dionte Christmas.
The 6-5 guard left the NBA Summer League feeling good about his chances at landing on an NBA roster. He had performed well for the Suns in Las Vegas, catching the league’s attention with a quick-fire jump shot and a willingness to mix things up on defense.
The results: 10.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists per game, and a bevy of training camp invites from various teams – except the one in which he had the most interest.
“I just felt comfortable with these guys,” Christmas said. “I felt comfortable with [Head] Coach [Jeff Hornacek]. He’s a great coach. I love his system. I’m familiar with a lot of guys on the team…I had a lot of other camp invites, but this was the one in particular I was waiting for.”
Nearly two months after that Summer League stint, Christmas’ agent called, telling him the Suns had a contract offer on the table.
“It was [a long wait],” Christmas admitted. “I was just being patient, hoping that these guys would call me back or something, and they did. My agent told me to be patient and wait. Some things opened up, I was patient, and a great opportunity came.”
The man behind the opportunity was a big reason why. Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough’s familiarity with Christmas dates back to his tenure in Boston, where he and Celtics management scouted him before ultimately extending him a similar contract offer at the beginning of the 2012-13 season.
“He’s always been a good scorer,” McDonough said during Summer League. “He was one of the leading scorers in the country as a senior in college (19.5 ppg). He knows how to set up his shot. He knows how to create space. He knows how to get open for shots and he gets it off pretty quickly. He positions himself well off the ball and he’s got his hands and feet ready to shoot.”
McDonough added that, through no fault of his own, Christmas didn’t end up sticking on the Celtics’ regular season roster. Now, the former Temple standout is encouraged that his second chance has come from the same person.
“It’s a great feeling to have somebody like [McDonough] keeping an eye out on me,” Christmas said. “He’s been really watching my progress over the last couple of years…For him to keep giving me opportunity after opportunity, that’s just a great feeling. I had a lot of camp invites, but knowing he was here and I have a lot of connections here, I was just waiting for his phone call.”
When the phone call did come and the contract was finalized, the newly signed guard was overwhelmed with the reaction and support from his own unique fan base. Twitter was especially abuzz with the news, which he says is a byproduct of his Summer League stints.
“More people watch summer league than I think, and I had a great response from [being in Boston in 2012],” Christmas said. “I think it just carried over. I guess a lot of people watched, just hoping I would get another shot, and I did. I took full advantage of it this summer and the same fans were following me. I got like four, five hundred mentions [on Twitter], a couple thousand followers just from summer league. The following I got was crazy.”
The goal now is to continue impressing management enough to make the opening night roster. Christmas hopes to accomplish that task with a more well-rounded game, which he hopes will set off another chain of good news reaction before the regular season begins.
“I’m a guy that’s going to go get it any way possible,” Christmas said. “I can shoot the ball, but I do other things. I’m an energy guy, I play defense, I can make things happen, and [they] sees that.”
“I got a lot of people hoping and praying that I make the team, and that’s good for me,” he added.