For those of us who can actually find some 76ers news in amongst all the Phillies hysteria, we learned yesterday that former Temple Owls star Dionte Christmas had been waived by the Sixers.
Obviously we hate to see any young prospect get his NBA dreams squashed for the moment, but this one really hits home because Dionte is a local kid whom we have known for years and has taken the time since the beginning of the summer to talk with us here at Philadunkia on several occasions.
Now we don’t think Dionte is the missing link between the Sixers and an NBA title, but to be honest the move was a bit of a surprise to us here at Philadunkia for a couple of reasons. First, the Sixers desperately need more three point shooting and Dionte can supply that for sure. Second, by letting Andre Miller walk to Portland and drafting Jrue Holiday combined with some of the statements he has made recently, it appeared that Ed Stefanski was going with a youth movement in the back-court. So cutting Dionte and stating that he wanted to keep that “spot available for someone more able to immediately contribute” would seem to be a diversion from that game plan. Lastly, the Sixers now only have 13 players on their roster and again are now in need of a tall, back-court player who can shoot from the outside. Dionte fits that description as well.
Anyways, we got on the cell with Dionte and even in the midst of this tough personal stretch he was gracious enough to give us a few minutes to talk about his whole ride with the Sixers. Of course the kid stayed classy through the whole interview, so our hats are off to him and we wish him the best of luck chasing his NBA dream.
PD : Talk about your experience as a whole with 76ers.
DIONTE : It was a great experience for me. First I’d like to thank Mr. Stefanski, coach Jordan and the whole staff for giving me the opportunity they gave me. It was a great experience playing with those guys and traveling and playing against some of those guys in the NBA that I grew up watching. It was a great experience to have some of the vets like Brand and Andre Iguodala and Louis help me with the dos and don’ts that I should be working on. They helped me the whole way and it was fun.
PD : At the start of camp, what did you think your chances were of making the Sixers roster?
DIONTE : I knew they had some other guys coming in, but I still thought my chances were high. I know the kind of player I am and I know the kind of player they were looking for and I know what kind of team the Sixers are because last year I went to almost every home game. I thought I had a legitimate shot, a great shot at making the team, but things didn’t go the way I planned and now I’m going to the next step.
PD : How did you think you played over the course of training camp and the preseason?
DIONTE : I thought I played pretty well with the time that I had. I thought I was productive with the time that coach gave me. I thought throughout the practices I did pretty well so I thought I had a pretty good camp and I picked up on the plays pretty good and that I had a great relationship with the coaches and the staff and the team.
PD : How was your adjustment to coach Jordan’s Princeton Offense?
DIONTE : It wasn’t the easiest. Coach Jordan had so many things that he pushed in the offense, so that was tough to pick up on. I think guys are still trying to pick up on his plays. It’s tough at first, but at the end I was picking up on things.
PD : The P’ton O is a good shooter friendly offense, so did you enjoy playing in it?
DIONTE : Yeah. I think the offense is good and everybody got their shots and a chance to show what they can do.
PD : Did you see being waived by the Sixers coming or were you surprised by the move?
DIONTE : I was actually surprised. I thought they would actually keep one (camp invitee), but they didn’t, so it was kind of shocker to me.
PD : Did GM Ed Stefanski or Head Coach Eddie Jordan tell you the news directly or did you find out some other way?
DIONTE : Coach Jordan talked to me directly. He called me in his office and told me. He also told me don’t give up and he thinks I am definitely an NBA player, it’s just certain things didn’t go my way here…
PD : What are your thoughts on how the Sixers will do in 2009-10?
DIONTE : I think they’re going to be real good this year. I see the Sixers winning 45 or 50 games this year. Collectively those guys are on the same page, they’re young, they like each other and they have a great coaching staff. So I think they have a chance to do some big stuff this year.
PD : How did you like playing for Head Coach Eddie Jordan?
DIONTE : Coach Jordan is pretty cool. He picks up on things very quickly. Great coaches recognize what great players can do and they incorporate that into the offense and I thought he did a nice job of that.
PD : You went up against the 76ers 2009 1st Round pick Jrue Holiday almost daily. What is your take on Holiday?
DIONTE : I think Jrue was getting better everyday. I played with him over the summer all the way through this point and he has improved very well. He’s learning the offense and picking up things from the other guards. I think he’s going to be a great player in the future.
PD : Did you have any shooting contests with Kapono?
DIONTE : (Laughs) No, no shooting contests. We played around a lot with the ball, but we really didn’t have the dead time opportunity to have a contest. But Kapono, he can shoot man. He’s a great shooter, a great vet and a great guy to be around.
PD : What was your favorite part of the experience with the Sixers?
DIONTE : Slipping on the jersey and just being out there with those guys. From being in the locker room to pregame to celebrating a win. But I also just think the whole experience was great…because from the first day of training camp until the day they released me it was great. The day they released me I got a text message from all those guys saying keep your head and the like.
PD : When you first got the news, were you felling disappointed, pissed, frustrated…what?
DIONTE : When they called me downstairs (to coach Jordan’s office) I was expecting the worst, so I wasn’t really disappointed. I know I played well and the coaches said I played well. They gave me good advice : things just didn’t go my way this year and it’s a tough year to come in (to the League) at this time (because of the US economy) so I really didn’t feel too disappointed. I just have to go a different route. Some guys get drafted and some guys have to go in through the back door and that is the way I have to go in.
PD : Who have you been listening to / talking things over with / taking advice from in this situation?
DIONTE : I have been talking to a lot of people in the last 24 hours. I talked to Mike Taylor of the Clippers. Me and him had a tight relationship during the summer and he was a D-League guy who got pulled up out of the D-League and I talked to him about what’s best the D-League or overseas and he was just giving me advice. I talked to Mardy Collins, my father, John Hardnett (legendary Philly hoops coach), my agent and some other NBA guys.
PD : We know it’s early, but what options are you looking at?
DIONTE : Overseas or the D-League.
PD : Can you be more specific about where overseas you are getting interest from?
DIONTE : I got a couple of teams in Israel, Greek teams and an Italian team. A lot of teams have called.
PD : Was there another NBA team that you felt you could have gone to camp with instead of the Sixers and that you would have had as good or better of a chance of making the team?
DIONTE : Probably the Atlanta Hawks. I thought those guys wanted me (and) came after me pretty hard. I thought I did pretty well in their little mini-camp this summer (picture at left), but I made my decision (to go with the Sixers) and I’ll live with it.