ORLANDO - When Dionte Christmas arrived at the Orlando Pro Summer League, he attached himself to 76ers assistant coach Aaron McKie.
The two had much in common: a Temple University basketball education and an ability to shoot the ball from distance.
Midway through this summer league - Christmas is playing for the Sixers on their combined team with the Nets - the former Owl has played a little less than 20 minutes a game, has made a few shots, and has appeared more and more comfortable with each passing minute.
Although he was projected as a second-round pick in June's draft, Christmas went undrafted, but quickly caught on with the Sixers for this week's summer league and with the Los Angeles Clippers for next week's bigger event in Las Vegas, the 2009 NBA Summer League.
McKie said he was "extremely happy" when Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski invited Christmas to join the Sixers' summer league team.
"It's a brotherhood," McKie said. "I'm extending my hand to him to help him as much as I can in his development and possibly making a team."
If Christmas is to make the NBA, he'll be doing it the hard way: as an undrafted free agent, proving he can do more than shoot, can play defense, and create going to the hoop. "When the chance for me doing that comes and presents itself, I have to take it," said Christmas after Tuesday's game of proving his versatility.
In last night's summer league game against the Orlando Magic, a game the Sixers/Nets lost, 108-86, Christmas played 15 minutes, 45 seconds , shot 5 for 9 from the field (4 for 6 from three), and scored 18 points.
"I talked to Aaron and he said, 'Go play basketball; do what you do.'. . . I was very comfortable," Christmas said last night. "When I can do what I did tonight against those guys, it gives me confidence."
At the end of the first half, with the clock ticking off its final seconds, Christmas stood open on the right wing, arms waving, hopping, calling for the ball: He had hit 3 of 4 from beyond the arc and seemed desperate to make it four.
Christmas' teammate Terrence Williams missed him, afterward shrugging his shoulders as if to say, I didn't see you over there.
"These guys know he can shoot the ball; they say, 'Come on D.C., put it up, put it up, that's good,' because they know what he's capable of," McKie said.