Christmas in September: Ex-Celtic inks with Suns

Christmas in September: Ex-Celtic inks with Suns
September 14, 2013, 1:15 am
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Dionte Christmas already had a full schedule planned for the weekend -- a party to watch the Mayweather - Alvarez fight on Saturday night followed by a day with friends and family for his 27th birthday on Sunday. When he stepped off the plane in his hometown of Philadelphia Friday night he had another reason to celebrate. Christmas had just signed a contract with the Phoenix Suns.

The 6-5 shooting guard has been chasing his NBA dream since going undrafted out of Temple University in 2009. He played internationally for multiple years, most recently in Italy, but has kept his eyes on his main goal the entire time.

"To have an opportunity like this to fulfill my dream and play in the NBA, it's always been kind of like a no-brainer for me," Christmas told in a telephone interview Friday evening after signing the multi-year contract. "I worked hard all my life to get to the NBA, so when a team like this comes where I actually have the opportunity to play, that's always the top priority for me. I have been overseas for some time now, but I'm trying to make the NBA my home and hopefully Phoenix can be my home for the next couple of years. I can't wait until everything starts."

Last fall Christmas participated in the Boston Celtics training camp. Although he was waived before the start of the regular season, he made a lasting impression. Two months after former Celtics assistant general manager Ryan McDonough was named GM of the Suns in May, Christmas was invited to play for Phoenix's Las Vegas Summer League team in July. (He also played for the Utah Jazz at the Orlando Pro Summer League). Christmas turned heads in Vegas, averaging 10.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 20.9 minutes over seven games.

"I think (my relationship with McDonough) played a big role because he knows what type of guy I am," said Christmas. "He knows that I work hard. I come in every day, I'm going to give it 110 percent."

Christmas received multiple offers to return overseas and estimates five NBA training camp offers as well. He liked the Suns, though, and was willing to give them time. In addition to McDonough, Christmas also knew assistant coach Mike Longabardi, who had worked on the Celtics staff, and felt comfortable with head coach Jeff Hornacek.

Waiting would pay off, he believed.

"Phoenix told me to be patient," he said. "When the whole Mike Beasley thing happened (the Suns waived Beasley on September 3), they kept in contact with my agent every day and they told me to come out. It was a blessing. I was being patient, I wasn't rushing anything. I had a lot of overseas deals, a lot of camp offers, but Phoenix was at the top of my list. I was just really waiting for them."

While his specific role on the team remains to be determined -- he can play the one, two and three -- he knows what he wants to achieve each time he steps on to the court. He describes himself as a "hard-nosed, hard-working player who's going to go in there and make things happen," noting that ranges from making shots to grabbing rebounds to playing tough defense.

Christmas is itching to return to Phoenix to get ready for training camp. But before he heads back west, he looks forward to enjoying the next few days back home as a member of the Suns.

"This is probably the best birthday (I've had)," said Christmas. "I get to spend it with the people I love. It's going to be a nice weekend for me."