Do they know it's Christmas?
July, 15, 2012
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com
Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty ImagesDionte Christmas made an impression on the Celtics at the Orlando Summer League.Dionte Christmas made a strong case for an NBA job -- or at least a training camp invite -- last week at the Orlando Summer League. He impressed Boston's brass so much that he's sticking with the Celtics as the scene shifts to Las Vegas this week. Count Ty Lue among the people that believe there's a spot for Christmas somewhere.
"I think he deserves to be in this league," said Lue, an assistant on Doc Rivers' staff and in charge of the summer squad that went 4-1 in Orlando. "I told him before we started camp that I know he’s a great scorer, I know he’s always been able to score the ball, but teams want you to defend. Make the right play, make the right pass -- and I thought in these games, he’s done that. He's rebounded the ball well, he’s passed, he’s guarded the best player every night -- he’s done a great job."
An undrafted 6-foot-5 guard out of Temple, Christmas has spent the past three seasons overseas in Israel, Turkey, and Greece. He's still waiting for his first real chance to kick down an NBA door.
Christmas averaged 12.2 points on 45.1 percent shooting with 6.2 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1.6 steals over 26.4 minutes per game in Orlando. He started the week with a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) in a win over Oklahoma City Thunder, then capped it with a 21-point outburst in a triumph over the host Magic.
Christmas wasn't the only player that made a strong impression in Orlando. A recap of what we learned from the five games at the Amway Center, starting with players that aided their cause last week:
MADE AN IMPRESSION IN ORLANDO
Jared Sullinger: Boston's top pick in last month's draft averaged 13.8 points and 8.3 rebounds (second best in the Orlando league) in four appearances and landed on the All-Summer League second team for his exploits. Sullinger started the "deserved to be drafted higher" tour off on the right foot, showing a strong ability to rebound and pass the ball, and can score in traffic around the hoop.
E'Twaun Moore: An up-and-down week to be sure, but there was more good than bad for Moore. The second-year guard averaged 14 points per game while shooting 43.1 percent overall. Moore showed improved yet still raw point guard skills and, so long as he doesn't get dealt away in Boston's quest for another frontline shooting guard, he has a chance to stick on Boston's roster to add depth as a combo guard.
Kris Joseph: A quiet start to the week left Lue imploring Joseph to be more aggressive and his 17-point, 11-rebound effort Thursday against Detroit showcased his potential. Joseph has a nice 6-foot-7 frame and the type of athleticism that, with enough time alongside Paul Pierce, he could be molded into a contributor.
Jamar Smith: A former Celtics training camp invitee (2010) who's spent time in recent seasons with the Maine Red Claws (he was one of the team's three affiliated players two seasons ago), Smith produced a couple of big third quarters while showcasing his potential for offensive outbursts. He averaged 9.2 points on 47.1 percent shooting in five games overall. Smith needs to show that he can do more than just score to give himself a chance of getting noticed further.
STILL HAVE SOMETHING TO PROVE IN VEGAS
JaJuan Johnson: Like Moore, this second-year forward had his moments (a 17-point, 6-rebound, 3-block effort on Thursday against Detroit was his best showing), but the Celtics will want to see more out of last year's first-round pick in Vegas. Johnson admitted that, without having much floor time last year, he was still getting back into a rhythm last week. He needs to build off the Orlando experience and thrive against this level of competition.
Sean Williams: For a guy on a nonguaranteed contract, Williams sure seemed content to blend into the scenery (or stand out at bad times, like loud dunks from opponents). The most NBA experienced player on the summer roster did little to separate himself against the sort of D-League talent he's toiled with the past two seasons. With Boston stocking its frontcourt this offseason, Williams needs to make an impression in Vegas if he's going to stick around.
Fab Melo: We knew he was a project and Melo showed that in Orlando. There's tantalizing glimpses of strong defensive play (he emphatically blocks shots and takes charges), but then there's head-shaking moments on the offensive end (he shot 28.6 percent from the floor, impossibly bad for a 7-footer). Melo needs to keep fine-tuning his game, but his defensive play might actually earn him some rookie floor time if he can make some strides.
THE REST OF THE GANG
Craig Brackins: Not a particularly encouraging sign when the most noteworthy aspect of your week is your fauxhawk. A former first-round pick (21st in 2010) with limited NBA floor time, the 6-foot-10 Brackins needs to distinguish himself in Vegas if he simply wants the opportunity to earn a job somewhere.
Jonathan Gibson: This streaky shooter erupted for 17 points in Tuesday's win over Brooklyn, but shot just 32.1 percent overall and averaged 6.2 points per game. He made up for those offensive inconsistencies (including a high turnover rate) with gritty defense, but the former Italian League 3-point champ needs to make his shots to get noticed.
Stephane Lasme: After nearly earning a roster spot coming out of Celtics camp in 2010 (Lasme pushed Von Wafer hard that year), it was a disappointing week for the UMass product. Lasme appeared in only three games and played a mere 28 minutes. Defense is his calling card, but he struggled to even get noticed on that end of the floor. After his success playing the 4 in smaller lineups a couple years back, it would be nice to see him at that spot more in Vegas (he often played the 3 in Orlando and it seems to negate his ability to matchup with bigger players and defend around the basket).
Larry Owens: He put up 14 points with a big second half in the final game of the week against Orlando, but only logged 16 minutes otherwise.