Rakeem Christmas 2017 Season Review

Pacers forward Rakeem Christmas reflects on his second season with the Pacers, in which he played the most meaningful minutes of his young career. After the All-Star break, Christmas became a regular member of Indiana's rotation.

Rakeem Christmas 2017

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Rakeem Christmas 2017 Season Review

Pacers forward Rakeem Christmas reflects on his second season with the Pacers, in which he played the most meaningful minutes of his young career. After the All-Star break, Christmas became a regular member of Indiana's rotation.
May 11, 2017  |  01:32

Rakeem Christmas 2016-17 Season Highlights

Check out these top plays from Pacers forward Rakeem Christmas from the 2016-17 season.
May 11, 2017  |  02:10

Player Review 2017: Rakeem Christmas

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

Age: 25
Years pro: 2
Status: Has two years remaining on his contract, with the second a team option.
Key stats: Played in 29 games off the bench, averaging 2 points and 1.9 rebounds while playing 7 ½ minutes per game.

He was just idling along, minding his own (lack of) business, racking up games on the inactive list, or, when he did get out of street clothes, DNP-CDs. But then all of a sudden Rakeem Christmas became relevant.

After playing just 23 total end-of-game minutes in seven of the Pacers' 57 games leading to the All-Star break, Christmas played in all but three of the final 25 games — and for meaningful minutes in most of them. Al Jefferson's recovery from dental surgery over the break created an opening in the rotation when the season resumed, and Christmas took advantage.

Playing 13 ½ minutes against Memphis on Feb. 24, he scored four points and grabbed five rebounds in a 10-point victory. It wasn't much in the box score, but it was a meaningful boost for his teammates, who needed energizers wherever they could find them. Entering the game late in the first quarter, he played a vital role in breaking open the game in the second period, when the reserves scored 27 of the team's 36 points. He took a pick-and-roll feed from Monta Ellis for an angry dunk, and teamed with Ellis again for a driving layup on the next possession. Those plays got his teammates — the starters — off the bench in celebration.

Gallery: Christmas' 2016-17 Season in Photos »

Christmas also successfully defended a Zach Randolph layup attempt and fought him aggressively for a rebound that was deflected out of bounds, setting the tone for the most aggressive game the Pacers played in three weeks.

"Rak did a very good job setting screens, rolling to the basket, and just being a force out there," Thad Young said afterward. "Him and Z-Bo looked like two bears fighting each other. That's what we need, to have that physical presence."

Added Paul George: "He sparked us and played huge minutes. It's a tough task playing against Zach (Randolph) and Marc (Gasol), but he did an unbelievable job. I thought he could have helped us a lot earlier. I'm very happy for him. He stuck with it, they gave him an opportunity and he shined."

2016-17 Player Reviews: More Reviews, Highlights, and Photos »

Two games later, Christmas scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in a win at Houston.

Jefferson's return reduced his playing time for a while, but he moved ahead of Lavoy Allen and Kevin Seraphin in the rotation at times, and usually produced. He returned to late outcome-based appearances at the end of the season, but still left a positive impression.

Christmas had been an All-Star for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants two seasons ago, averaging 13.9 points and 7.1 rebounds, but played in only nine games for them last season — which wasn't a bad thing, because it reflected his increased opportunity with the Pacers. He averaged 9.4 points and 5.8 rebounds for the Mad Ants, but no doubt hopes he's done burning up I-69 with his trips back and forth to Fort Wayne.

He has a contract for next season, but again will have to fight for playing time, if not his job. At 6-9, he's not exceptional in any physical or skill category, but is athletic and aggressive enough to contribute. That will make it difficult to stand out among the relentless stream of contenders for NBA rosters, but he can be counted on to fight for his place.


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Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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