Christmas: 'This is my dream'
"Basically, this is my dream," said an emotional Christmas. "I played overseas for the last three years and this was actually like my money year overseas. I played real well over there last year and this is the year I would go back over there and make a lot of money. But this opportunity came and God blessed me with this opportunity with the Celtics.
"I played very well in Orlando [summer league], very well in Vegas, and when [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge and [director of player personnel] Austin [Ainge] came with the proposal to my agent, it was my dream, and I couldn't turn it down. I had a long talk with my dad, and he basically was just saying, 'It's not all about the money. It's about chasing your dream.' He still wakes up with regrets, because my dad was an athlete, and he [had to] forgo his dreams to do certain things, but he still wakes up with regrets. He was like, 'You don't want to do that, wake up with regrets, saying you could have, but you didn't.'
"So that right there just stuck with me the whole night and the next day it was like a no-brainer. I just told [the Celtics] I was on board. I called the overseas teams and told them what I was doing and now I'm here today."
As we noted this summer, it appears that Christmas and Jamar Smith inked similar league-minimum deals, where only a small portion ($25,000 for Smith) is guaranteed. If Christmas doesn't make the Celtics' 15-man roster out of camp, he might have sacrificed money overseas given the fact that those teams have likely signed other players.
Christmas, who has spent the past three seasons in Greece and the Czech Republic, admitted there's benefits to staying stateside.
"It's great, man," he said. "[In July I was getting ready to go] overseas, packing up, 10 months, not seeing my family. Now I get to go home [to the Philadelphia area on] certain days, see my family, I can fly people in, and it's just a lot better feeling, a lot better setting. So it's definitely a blessing. It truly is a blessing, and I just can't thank the Celtics enough for giving me this opportunity."
And how has his focus changed since summer league?
"A lot different. It's a lot more focus," said Christmas. "I was definitely focused in summer league, but now, I've got to pay attention to every detail, getting up early, working out, getting a good lift in. I'm just trying to eat right and rest well, because we're going hard. Once we get into the gym at 9:30, 10 in the morning, we go hard for about four or five hours, and so I have to be mentally tough and just be prepared to go in. Those long lifts -- I'm not used to lifting -- and then doing the training that I'm doing now, as opposed to overseas, is a lot different. Just mentally and physically, it's a different mindset."
If it leads to an NBA job out of camp, all that work -- this summer and for the past three years overseas -- will be well worth the grind.
Play Podcast Sports Illustrated's Peter King weighs in on the Patriots' offensive line, the outlook for New England, Jim Harbaugh's relationship with his team and the Cowboys' success.
Play Podcast Colin Cowherd shares his thoughts on the state of the Patriots, New England's offense and Brady Hoke's future at Michigan.
Play Podcast Skip Bayless & Stephen A. Smith debate if the Patriots dynasty is over, if the 49ers have stopped listen to Jim Harbaugh and more. Plus, they make their World Series predictions.