Terry dedicates himself to helping Christmas succeed with Celtics

Terry dedicates himself to helping Christmas succeed with Celtics
September 6, 2012, 5:59 am

The text message alert woke him up around 8:00pm on Tuesday night. Dionte Christmas had been taking a nap, part of his routine to get more rest in preparation for his first NBA season. He reached for his phone and read the question on the screen.
Me and Jason are going to the gym. You want to come?
The message came from a mutual friend of Christmas and Jason Terry. The rookie bolted out of bed, grabbed his gym gear, and headed from his hotel to the Boston Celtics practice facility in Waltham for an impromptu workout session with his new teammate.
I definitely wasnt going to miss an opportunity to do that, Christmas told CSNNE.com in a telephone interview. So I got right up. He said, Well be in the gym in five minutes. I was there in three minutes.
Christmas has spent the past few weeks hitting the court with Terry, trying soak up every ounce of advice offered by the veteran before the start of training camp. The two first met five years ago at a Reebok Breakout Camp in Philadelphia. Terry, a Reebok athlete, was one of the guests at the camp while Christmas, a junior at Temple University, was a counselor. Their interaction was brief Terry had a packed schedule that day but Christmas remembers him mentioning he had watched the young guard play for the Owls.
This summer Christmas joined Terry in the Reebok family by signing with the company. The deal came shortly after Christmas inked a partially guaranteed contract with the Celtics following impressive summer leagues in both Orlando in Las Vegas.
In August, the two officially met as teammates when they spent the week at Reeboks Canton, Mass. headquarters with fellow athletes John Wall, Jameer Nelson, Ramon Sessions, and Maalik Wayns. They worked out together, ate group dinners, and relaxed by going bowling. During this time, Christmas and Terry also began developing a relationship that quickly evolved as the summer continued.
Once we got to Boston, Jason told me he was going to look after me, Christmas said. He told me we were going to get in the gym together a lot, he wanted to see me be the best player I could be for Boston and be the best person I could be, period.
The hours spent together in the gym quickly accumulated. Terry wasted no time encouraging Christmas to push himself. The rookie thrived on the veterans passion for the game. Soon, he began incorporating Terrys methods into his own preparation.
Even though Christmas is entering his first NBA season, he has years of overseas experience behind him having played in Greece, Israel, and Turkey. At 25 years old, he had his own routine and techniques. Yet after watching Terry for a few short weeks, Christmas has made changes to his approach.
He likes to get in and out, but he goes real hard for an hour, said Christmas. Its something Im not used to. Im used to doing my thing, take a break, getting back at it. He goes straight through.
Hes a great shooter and I kind of thought I was a great shooter, but he is a great shooter. We have drills where we compete and I cant let him get too far ahead of me because he can go off making like 30 straight shots. Its just tough, its real competitive. Hes so focused and seeing him like that at 34, 35, its real humbling.
This guys coming in at nighttime when nobodys in the gym. Tuesday it was just like me, him, and the janitor in the gym just getting it in for a good hour, working hard. He does it when nobodys looking. Thats the stuff that gives me motivation because I like to get work in during the day and rest at night, but I see what it takes to be successful in the league. Hes a champion, he has been very successful over his career, so watching him and talking to him, I know what it takes.
Since the 6-foot-2 Terry also plays the shooting guard position, Christmas, 6-foot-5, has been able to mirror his moves. The two run through shooting drills and reenact possible game scenarios in which they are required to create their own shots. Terry emphasizes repetition when completing the tasks.
I think our games are very similar, said Christmas. Jason, he isnt as big as me, but hes very, very, smart as far as getting open to get his shot off. Hes a great, great, great shooter. He works just like I do to get off of screens, to get open shots. He knows how to use his players, he knows how to lead his opponent, and I think Im the same way.
Christmas admits he was considered the man overseas, but signing with the Celtics means joining a league where his skills havent been tested. Battling it out against Terry in practice sessions has given him a boost of confidence to know he can make an impact in the NBA.
Usually when I walk in the gym with someone, Im usually the best shooter in the gym, Christmas said. Flat out, like I know I can shoot better than all these guys. But when Im in the gym with Jason, I get to really test how good of a shooter I really am. Jason is a great shooter and for me to shoot the ball as well as I am with him shows that I really can shoot the ball well at this level.
Terry has stressed succeeding in the NBA goes beyond what a player does with the ball in his hands. Christmas echoed the advice he has received from the former Sixth Man of the Year to always stay ready, regardless of how many minutes he is or isnt playing. If Christmas missteps on a play, Terry stops to walk him through it. If the rookie has a question about a strategy, the veteran talks it over with him.
Terry has also offered ways to save energy on the court, eat healthier, and incorporate more rest into his daily routine. Most significantly, he has provided Christmas with unwavering support and will continue to as he transitions into the league during his rookie year.
He told me at Reebok, Every time I see you slacking, Im just going to look at you and tell you youre not going back, meaning Im not going back overseas, said Christmas. I said, I hope youre right. So every time I looked at him, hed just give me a look or he keeps telling me Im going hard. Its just a confidence booster in itself, him being in the gym, his presence.
Christmas appreciates the journey to earn a place in the NBA and respects the road Terry has paved to be a part of it for the past 13 seasons. Terry had only played for two teams prior to signing with the Celtics as a free agent. Even after leaving the Dallas Mavericks, team owner Marc Cuban said he would consider Terrys desire to have his Mavs jersey retired.
Terry is revered as one of the good guys in the league, from his dedication and discipline to basketball to his commitment to the communities in which he plays and lives.
No matter who you are, who youre playing against, you have to respect every opponent he always says things like that, said Christmas. I think thats why hes so respected around the league because he respects the game so much and everybody sees that. I saw that the first time me and him even got on the court together. He respects the game so much and he doesnt take plays off. He always wants to win. I think thats what guys respect the most about Jason and thats what Im taking from him.
Christmas will turn 26 on September 15, the same day Terry will turn 35. The younger guard promises in spite of Terrys intense desire to win, he is one of the most easy-going and humorous teammates he has had.
He brings life to the locker room, he brings life to practice, said Christmas. From the time hes stretching, hes cracking little jokes here, little jokes there. Once they blow the whistle, hes serious. But hes a funny guy. Thats what I love about him. Hes going to be 35 but I swear hes like 22, seriously, at heart.
He continued, Hes just fun to be around. I could be around Jason Terry all day.
The time he has spent with Terry could help Christmas be around him and the Celtics all season.