Training camp addition Dionte Christmas impressed Celtics fans (and management) to no end with his energetic and all-round play during summer league. Hell, I was rooting for him to make the roster (and I still am).
His role in the team however appears to have taken a hit during the Europe exhibition games, although it is more of Doc limiting the rookie’s minutes more than anything else. How are things looking like right now, and what would Christmas need to get back on track?
What the team needs
The main concern right now has to do with a backup point guard, which once again brings us back to Dooling’s unexpected retirement. His leaving brought us Man Mountain Darko, but we are left scrambling for someone to take care of the ball and run the right plays when Rondo’s busy icing his knees on the bench.
There is a pressing need for a young guy to step up and run the point, but neither Jamar Smith nor Christmas are seen as legit contenders for that spot.
What Christmas is doing right
Mark Murphy at the Boston Herald writes about Dionte’s energy and determination in improving himself, evidenced by his hustle on the court and his willingness to fire questions relentlessly.
Christmas was occasionally singled out by the coach during the Turkey practices for failed rotations or errant moves. But he kept stepping up to the front of the huddle, kept asking questions, and as the only Celtic who has actually played in Turkey, was asked to address the crowd from center court prior to the Celtics’ loss to Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul’s Ulker Sports Arena.
The only bad question is the one you don’t ask, and I like the way Christmas is doing everything he can to better himself.
“I’m just working, man,” he said. “I’m making the best of my time. There are things I did pretty well, and things I have to do better. Things I have to correct myself on. But I’m watching film, and trying to better myself.”
How things stand now, and how Bradley’s return affects guard minutes
Will he succeed though? The team is presently swamped with guards (Rondo, JET, Lee, Bradley, Christmas, Smith) and out of the six, only Rondo is a true point guard, the others being either straight up twos (Bradley, Christmas, Smith) or twos that can handle the ball (JET, Lee).
Bradley’s eventual return will further limit the pool of minutes available. Either Lee stays as a starter for a while more while Bradley eases his way back into the game, or Bradley gets shuffled back to the starting five right off. Either way Bradley takes a sizable chunk of playing time, so Christmas is looking at an absolute minimum in playing time even if he makes the cut. Lee and JET will definitely take the brunt of the bench guard minutes so it’s either that, or he gets shipped off to Maine.
What Christmas needs to be doing more
What I reckon he needs, is to simply be the energy guy off the bench, the same way Jason Terry is. Learn to handle the ball and make decisions, while maintaining his energy and hustle. Not forgetting of course, to score the same way he did over at summer league.
It’s not an easy transition given the fact that his minutes will be limited, but he has to learn to fit into the team while stepping up on ball-handling duties. It’s not an overnight thing, but he has to start doing his best to get there right now.
Another key is defense. Doc loves guys who hustle on defense, look at prime example #1 – Avery Bradley, who got his minutes from playing lockdown defense to start with.
Christmas is definitely not the relentless and maniacal defender Bradley is, but the more he proves himself capable of adapting to the Celtics defense and stick to the game plan (staying in front of his man, closing out on shooters with a pitchfork while screaming bloody murder, pick & roll defense, hell even rebounding!), the better his chances of making the roster.
(Kidding about the pitchfork part, don’t take that too seriously.)
(Screaming is acceptable.)
I’m still rooting for Dionte Christmas, and I really want him to make the roster come season start. Whether he manages to do so is still up in the air, so here’s my vote to him for now. Go Dionte, do your darndest to get there!
What do you think, will Christmas make it to the team come November?