Dionte Christmas hit a 3-pointer in his second Philadelphia 76ers’ preseason game. He’s still on the roster after earning a training camp invite.
Dionte Christmas sat on the Philadelphia 76ers’ bench in his red-and-white warm-ups for a little more than 35 minutes last Friday night, an unusual spot for the three-time Atlantic Ten Conference scoring champion.
And then, with 22.8 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Sixers coach Eddie Jordan motioned for Christmas to check in at the scorer’s table and enter the game.
“Today just felt extra good, being home and when I got in, the ovation I got from the crowd,” Christmas said. “To know that Philly is behind me throughout the whole process I’m going through and for all my family to be here and see me play, my dad, my mom, my grandmom, aunts, uncles, a couple of friends, is just really special.”
In his five-plus minutes on the court, Christmas hit a 3-pointer, grabbed a defensive rebound and stole a pass intended for the New Jersey Nets’ Chris Douglas-Roberts.
Though Jordan removed him from the game with 7:14 left in the fourth quarter, the coach credited Christmas, fellow guard Willie Green and forward Jason Kapono with jump-starting the Sixers’ comeback in their 93-92 NBA preseason win. Christmas’ 3-pointer with 10:40 remaining in the fourth quarter got the Sixers to within 11 points at 71-60.
“Dionte Christmas, along with Willie Green and Jason Kapono, were the unsung heroes who started the comeback and got it going,” Jordan said. “That group got it going, and then in the end, our stars made the shots.”
“For me to hit that big shot, the pass from Willie Green was great, but for me to hit that shot and start that little run that we had, felt so good,” Christmas added. “[Coach Jordan] mentioned that in the locker room, and that just made my day. For coach Jordan to say that I was one of the reasons why we won that game felt good. If God blesses me enough to get a contract, that’s something that they’re going to get out of me every night. I play hard, and I know my role here, and that’s to play defense and come in and make shots.”
Christmas said he knew the Sixers would invite him to training camp after he finished playing for the Los Angeles Clippers in the Las Vegas Summer League, where he averaged 2.6 points in five games. The Sixers watched him play up close and in person before that, though, as their entry in the Orlando Pro Summer League. There, Christmas averaged 9.3 points and two rebounds in four games.
“Immediately after the Las Vegas League, my agent got a call saying they were interested,” Christmas said. “In fact, I had gotten a phone call from [76ers’ General Manager] Ed Stefanski the day of the NBA draft [June 25], like five minutes after the draft went off. He personally called my cell phone to say that they might have interest in me. I was hoping they would call me, and they did.
“Today, when I got out there, everybody, Lou [Williams], Elton [Brand], Andre [Iguodala], Willie [Green], just said, ‘Get out there and do what you do – make shots. Don’t try to think too much, just play basketball,’” Christmas added.
In his only other preseason appearance, Christmas played almost nine minutes and missed all three of his shot attempts. He did connect on three-of-four free-throw attempts, corral two rebounds and tally an assist against the Toronto Raptors.
The Sixers open the regular season Oct. 28 at the Orlando Magic. By then, they must condense their roster to 15 players, 12 of whom can be active for any individual game.
“I don’t even know when I find out if I make the roster,” Christmas said. “That’s a good question. I don’t know. I’m just playing it by ear. I’m looking on nba.com to see who’s getting released. Some of those guys are my friends. We went through similar situations in June. Every day I come in, and I’m still here for another day. I talked to Mark [Tyndale] after he was released, and he just told me to stay in there. He said I’m one of the last Temple players left and that everyone’s rooting for me. I’ll get in there any way I can. I just need to get my foot in that door.”
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.