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RealGM reports that Dionte Christmas, who played for Phoenix in this year's Summer League, is receiving interest from several teams, including the Suns. Throughout seven games in Las Vegas, the 6'5" shooting guard was arguably the best reserve for a team that went 6-1, ultimately losing to the Golden State Warriors in the Summer League Championship.

"I’m getting positive feedback from a lot of teams," Christmas told RealGM. "Perhaps I get a call saying they want to see me in training camp or hopefully sign me for the season."

Christmas, who went undrafted in 2009 after a four year career at Temple, spent a month with the Philadelphia 76ers that year but didn't get a chance to play. He spent a couple years overseas before signing a partially guaranteed two-year contract with the Boston Celtics last year, only to be waived at the beginning of the season.

Christmas will but 27 in September and has yet to play even one game in the NBA. When asked about his hopes of landing on the Suns' roster, he said:

"Yeah, it would be a dream come true," Christmas said. "If they sign me for the year, that’s what I’m here for and that’s my goal."

In seven Summer League games, he averaged 10.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 20.9 minutes per game while shooting 46.3% from the field, 32.1% from three, and 75% from the free throw line. Other than the tournament final, in which Christmas failed to score, he was mostly consistent throughout the ten days.

Christmas averaged 10.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 20.9 minutes per game during Summer League.

After a good performance with the team, Dionte Christmas stands a strong chance of at least earning a training camp invite with the Suns. He is a versatile scoring guard with good size, length, and defensive ability, but is held back by his below-average athleticism. Still, he would be good option has a fifth guard to earn a few minutes every now and then.

However, there are two factors that might hurt his chances of landing a roster spot with this team: his age and the fact that the Suns roster is currently stocked with several guards. Although the latter could easily change between now and the start of the season through a trade or another personnel move, the former is sure to be a factor. The fact that he will soon be a 27 year old player without a single minute of NBA action under his belt does not help his case.

The Suns could also consider other players from their Summer League squad to add to their roster or at least invite to training camp. Arinze Onuaku, Chris Babb, and Diante Garrett should and probably will receive consideration from the team. Onuaku would bring a skillset and body type that this team doesn't have (which could be useful in practice). Babb would be a good 3-and-D option at the end of the bench. Garrett is a versatile guard who can do several things on the court (although none exceptionally well). Alex Oriakhi might also receive attention, although that would be more because GM Ryan McDonough drafted him, not necessarily due to his performance in Summer League.

All things considered, the Suns have a few interesting options from their Summer League team that they will be sure to look at. Dionte Christmas, despite his age and the Suns' roster situation, might be the best of the lot.

Poll
If the Suns only sign one free agent from their Summer League squad, who should it be?

  1182 votes | Results

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After a 6-0 start to the 2013 NBA Summer League the Phoenix Suns fell short to their in season divisional rival, the Golden State Warriors, but in a fashion that has to be commended. The team took this summer serious, tried to win, and sent out the "A-Team" to get the job done.

From the rookies on the court to the rookies on the bench; we scope how the summer went overall for the Suns in the first every "meaningful" Summer League in NBA history.

Ninth Topic: Five Questions on the Summer League Final (Championship Game)

1. Breaking the Ice: How does it feel...? To be the runner-ups at the inaugural Summer League Championships?

Jim Coughenour: The parade through downtown Phoenix has been canceled. The champagne was carted out of the locker room as the players entered after the game. Championship rings were melted down. Lon Babby's statue in front of USAC is on an indefinite hold. Championship t-shirts have been shipped to a third world country (per Richard). Excursus aside... they won six games and had players evidence growth and promise. Sting mollified.

Jacob Padilla: I'm not going to lie. It hurts. It hurts real bad. Or not. Seriously though, even finishing second out of all the teams in Vegas is pretty cool. We got to see Suns players doing well and had some fun along the way. It was cool to see the vets stick around and go for it all when they really didn't have to.

Dave King: It sucks. And it hurts. It's most disappointing to me because that's the way the Suns are going to lose a lot of games next year. Kids are inconsistent. What they do well one game doesn't carry over. What they do well one quarter, even, doesn't carry over. And it doesn't hurt any less just because there's "promise" and "hope". I hate watching the Suns lose.

Kris Habbas: The Suns sent a seasoned group to Las Vegas and nearly came away with the franchises first championship! To me the biggest thing that I took away from this experience is that the team really wanted this and tried to win. They took the opportunity to play in July serious.

Richard Parker: It's a little disappointing that they weren't able to win it all and really continue a phenomenal summer, especially since this is the most invested Suns fans have been in Summer League in a long time (probably ever). However, I'm glad the team did well and was able to enjoy some success while showing several great things out on the court in Vegas.

Sean Sullivan: Feels almost great to be almost champions.

2. Scoping the entirety of Summer League, what were you the most impressed with from the rookie players and the rookie coach?

JP: I liked the way Hornacek got the team to play his way and the results in terms of points and wins speak for themselves. I also thought he made some adjustments throughout the run that helped the team get better. He did his job. As for the players, Archie Goodwin is clearly the headliner from Vegas. He showed off his athleticism and knack for drawing contact, and Suns fan are getting excited. Oriakhi didn't really show anything at all, although he was stuck behind more experienced players in the Morri and Arinze Onuaku.

DK: If I step back a bit to when they were 6-0, I can see a lot of progress and growth. I like that Hornacek is instilling an identity, and that he knows how to make it work. Even in the loss in the Final, the Suns were disciplined in their offensive sets. Every shot was a quality shot after several passes, either behind the 3-point line or within 15 feet of the basket. Rarely did the Suns hoist a shot they didn't want. Unfortunately, the layups didn't go in, and then the team got run over by a hot-shooting team. But there's a plan - run fast, play smart, get out in transition, play tough defense, get out in transition, make shots. Drive, kick, pass, shoot, swish. That's an identity. And, by the way, they made a lot of shots. Everyone looked like a better shooter after only a few weeks with Hornacek after finishing last season as one of the worst shooting teams in the league. (exceptions: Marshall still needs to totally rebuild his shot, and P.J. is just never going to be a dead-eye 3-point shooter)

KH: There is almost nothing that can be taken away from the coaching staff because there is little strategy in this format, but Archie Goodwin showed a lot. He is an NBA level athlete and this was hopefully the injection of confidence that Goodwin needed to get his career going after an up-and-down year at Kentucky.

RP: I was really impressed with the success the team had pushing the ball consistently. Hornacek had this team run and that's an exciting thought for fans eager to see the team play in October. I was also obviously impressed with Goodwin's level of play, which was beyond what I could have even hoped.

SS: I liked the aggressive style of play and the tempo set by Hornacek. As for the players, Goodwin was easily the most positive sign for our future.

JC: Hornacek = equanimity. McDonough = engaging. Goodwin = potential. Marcus = liberated. Onuaku = ogre.

3. On the other side of things what were you not impressed with?

DK: I was not impressed with... not much. Actually, there really wasn't much to dislike about the SL Suns. The Morris brothers looked focused, P.J. looked like a leader, Goodwin was great-win most of the time, Hornacek showed an ability to coach an identity that people will like to watch. Even Marshall wasn't totally terrible. It's just that the offense doesn't cater to his strengths unless they are in transition. In the half-court, the guards have to be able to shoot or drive and kick/score. That's not Marshall.

KH: Other than the contracted players the Suns sent to Vegas there were zero NBA quality big men on the roster. Some showed flashes, but the search for the fifth big man continues...

RP: Alex Oriakhi was thoroughly underwhelming. To be fair, he didn't really receive many minutes (and he is a bottom of the second round draft pick) but he was overshadowed from the start by Onuaku and never really regained momentum after that.

SS: Some of the things I was hoping to see our players improve on individually. I wanted Markieff to be more of a force in the paint...didn't happen. I also wanted more scoring attempts from Marshall...nope. In their defense though, I thought both the Morrii and even Marshall played well overall, and showed some things they had improved or added to their games.

JC: Marshall = passive. Markieff = inconsistent.

JP: I wasn't all that impressed with Marcus Morris despite how much attention he was getting from NBA TV. He had a different role than he hopefully will with the Suns this year, but he looked to force too much by himself rather than taking good shots and playing within the flow of the offense more often than not.

4. The team sent a lot of contracted players to Summer League and won. In that, are they setting a new precedent?

KH: Hopefully. If a rookie or sophomore player is not doing something else to get better in June and July then they should be at Summer League. Some do not need it, obviously, while others clearly do. You know who needs to be here and who does not.

RP: I don't think it was really a precedent that they were setting. I think that is attributed to the fact that the team has a rookie head coach who wanted to get some actual coaching action with a roster filled with Summer League-eligible players.

SS: I doubt it. I think this was more about a new coaching staff trying to get a look at their young-ish players than anything else.

JC: I think it had more to do with the transition than being a bellwether. Hornacek's inexperience was the deciding factor in him being there. I think it was more of a get to know you mixer than a trend. Also... the Suns have plenty of underperforming players in need of seasoning. Too bad there aren't more games... these guys need them.

JP: I doubt it. Summer League wins aren't really valued so winning isn't motivation to send the big guns. The Suns were a bit unique in that they had so many players that were eligible to play in Vegas who were both healthy and wanted to participate, but that won't be the case most years.

DK: I am glad they took SL seriously. I mean, why not? There are several developing players on the team, and players are always more focused when they have something to play for. Plus, Hornacek and his staff needed to actually coach something to prove to themselves they can do it as a unit. Mission accomplished.

5. Should this be the norm going forward to give more legitimacy to the concept of Summer League?

RP: I definitely like the tournament format a lot. I think the legitimacy of sending a roster NBA-caliber players should be evaluated on a team-by-team basis. I think it was a great move for this Suns team but obviously (and hopefully) that will change in a couple years when we're more successful in the regular season and have mostly veterans that are too advanced to play in SL.

SS: Only if there is a reason. I think Summer League is still best left up to rookies trying to adapt their games, and free agents looking to find a home in the NBA.

JC: It was already the norm. The Suns ended up being bridesmaids again. I think this experience is invaluable for rookies and players trying to crack rosters, but having multiple rotation players attend doesn't inspire confidence. In order for the competition to be legitimized there needs to be an incentive. For most of these teams it's just not there.

JP:

DK: In the larger scheme, I sure hope other teams start taking it more seriously. Why wouldn't Charlotte, in the same boat as the Suns, not want to win something after going through all that losing? Why waste that opportunity? You are in the middle of 5-6 months off, and the only way the next season will be better is to make your players better in the off-season. SL is potentially a big part of that. Kind of like the minors. I love it, and I hope other teams start to feel the same.

KH: That would be great. Who wouldn't want to see as many first round picks from the current draft as well as the previous draft to showcase each teams talents. The Suns did that, the Charlotte Bobcats did that, and so did a few other teams. If that became the norm then everyone wins. Teams, players, fans, and the concept of Summer League.

6. BONUS: Does Summer League create a "false confidence" in players that will fill a role in the regular season or is it good to see them in this environment taking control?

SS: I don't think so...I think the players understand their roles for the most part. I think the false confidence is more about the fans watching the games and expecting these young players to be those same world beaters once the season starts, only to watch the majority of them ride the pine in the end.

JC: I don't know. Markieff was a presence the previous summer and we all know how that went. Confidence is great... even false confidence at times. These players just need people preaching perspective to them. These are building blocks, not pyramids. Just because they tinker toyed their way through the SL doesn't mean it translates to prime time. Just ask Deion.

JP: Not if the player has the right attitude. I doubt P.J. Tucker is going to use this SL run as a reason for him to try to take over for the Suns late in games. It's always a good feeling when you play well, so as long as the player doesn't use it as a reason to not work as hard then it is almost all positive.

DK: I don't know about false confidence, but I guess it's possible. Not sure any of them can have more confidence than they already have. There are no wallflowers on this team. The Morris, Marshall, Goodwin and Tucker all feel like they are pretty darn good players. I guess you could say losing in the Final might help ground them, to make them work hard the rest of the summer, so there's that. But I think Hornacek would have made them work regardless.

KH: There is the caveat to everything above, right? Is coach Hornacek going to be able corral Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris from being perimeter oriented, jacking up jumpers, and playing small? Is he going to be able to remind them that during the regular season roles are clearly more defined? Bad habits have a habit of not dying...

RP: I don't think so. At least, I hope not. These players should (and I think do) know that summer league is an environment for them to showcase their talents in an attempt to earn a roster spot or show that they deserve a larger role with their team next year. It think it's a great place for many young players and fringe-NBA guys to show what they can do and display their off-season improvements.

The Golden State Warriors used one of the cleanest Las Vegas Summer League games and some of the cleanest shooting by rookie Ian Clark to give Suns coach Jeff Hornacek his first loss on Monday. The...

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"We finally have a championship game. Let's have fun with it," P.J. Tucker says, of his sixth summer season. Tucker was ready to rumble.

All players were ready to go. This is the kind of game that can give these guys some confidence as a unit going into next season. Unless you get blown out, that is. Then it's all about excuses and missed opportunities.

After a strong start and a big attempt to stay in the game until they found their shooting, the Suns ended up fading. They lost all the loose balls, gave up a lot of offensive rebounds and in the end couldn't pull out a win.

Golden State won the inaugural Summer League Championship 91-77 in a game that wasn't as close as the score, after all.

Get used to it Suns fans. Just when you think the Suns are turning a corner, they will throw up a stinker. The Suns finish 6-1 in summer league.

It was the third game in three days, seventh in just over a week for both teams. Early, the shots were off for both teams, but then they both heated up to an extent. The Suns did it by scoring inside, being aggressive going to the rim and taking contact. Golden State started setting up on the three-point line and turning the game into a broken-down transition game as often as possible.

Both teams played this game hard at first, but the Golden State Warriors played the Suns harder than any opponent to date and ran the Suns off their confidence. They have lots of scorers on that team, and they all scored.

Golden State went on a big run in the second quarter, stunning the Suns who were focusing on smart scores near the basket.

Ian Clark had 19 points at halftime on 7-9 shooting, 4-5 on threes. As a team, GS made 6-13 first half three-pointers. You might think Clark would cool off in the second half, but no. Clark went 12-19, 7-10 for the game to win MVP honors with 33 points.

Archie Goodwin was the Suns' best first-half player, with 16 points of his own, making 5-8 shots and 5-5 free throws. Unfortunately, Goodwin was not nearly as active in the second half and only finished with 18 points.

Marcus Morris was 4-6 for 9 points, plus 3 rebounds, in the first half while P.J. Tucker dropped 10 tough points inside. Both of these guys did show in the second half, but it wasn't enough. Morris finished with 17 and 6, while Tucker played hard but just didn't get the results.

Both the Suns and Warriors made more than half their shots in the first two quarters.

"Both teams?" Hornacek replied at halftime with an exaggerated squint (I've gotten some of those too), after David Aldridge tried to say both teams played hard in the first half. "They were playing hard. We were a little slow."

Diante Garrett started the second half at PG, but the Suns didn't start the second half with much more precision or passion. Golden State still got to every loose ball and Phoenix couldn't finish layups or open shots.

Still, it's summer league. Both teams struggle more with playing basketball at this level. As before, teams were tight (tired) coming out of the break. The Suns apparently more tired, because they didn't come out of their funk as fast as Golden State did.

The Suns started coming apart when they couldn't make open layup after layup on the same possession, ending in a breakaway to give Golden State back the lead. Form that point, Golden State broke out and took a 63-54 lead.

Greg Anthony was very complimentary of both Morris brothers, referring to their quality footwork both under the basket and on the perimeter, on offense and defense. He also complimented them on their ball handling and passing. He just said they need to make shots (Kieff was 2-10 at that point, mostly on inside shots).

Kent Bazemore was a big time scorer for the Warriors with an array of scoring drives and dipsy-do moves to get open jumpers.

After a timeout, the Suns righted the ship and pulled back within two, beginning with a three-pointer by Kieff, who to that point was missing everything. Good on Hornacek sketching out a play to get him another three which he made.

Archie Goodwin came out completely flat in the second half, deferring totally to his teammates. He didn't drive or cut or demand the ball at all. This is something that reminds you Goodwin is still just 18 years old.

Overall, it was a really sloppy third quarter with neither team taking control of the game. In fact, it appears that the Warriors were dominating the game, but only had a 4 point lead.

In the fourth, the Warriors came out with a vengeance and the Suns, once again, weren't ready to match the intensity. The Suns defense broke down totally, leaving Ian Clark open AGAIN for a three like the Suns were back in 2012-13 again. Ugh.

Add in giving up offensive rebounds, and the Warriors took an 11-point lead before the Suns could even take a breath.

The Suns were just back on their heels all night long.

Summer_league_suns_custom

Who: Phoenix Suns (#3 seed) vs. Golden State Warriors (#1 seed)

What: 2013 NBA Summer League Championship Game

Where: Las Vegas Nevada; NBA TV

When: 6pm PDT (AZ time)/9pm EST

Why:

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Clash of the Titans

Record PPG FG% 3PT% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO
Phoenix Suns 6-0 93.2 49.0% 42.1% 69.3% 36.2 17.7 7.2 3.8 17.5
Golden State Warriors 6-0 76.4 37.9% 25.5% 71.9% 38.2 9.6 9.4 3.4 15.6

Although neither of these teams has lost a single game in Vegas this year, a team statistical comparison reveals that each has achieved success with different styles. The Suns' offense this summer has been crisp and on-point, averaging a Vegas-leading 93.2 points per game. Moreover, the team is shooting the ball extremely well from the field and the three point line and is playing stellar team ball, averaging 17.7 assists per game (although they are turning the ball over at an equally high rate).

The Suns' summer squad boasts a roster replete with NBA-worthy talent. PJ Tucker is playing like a seasoned veteran this summer, complementing the young guys well but also putting his foot down and downright dominating whenever he feels the need. The Morris twins have performed very well, shooting the ball, scoring, and hitting game-winning shots (and unfortunately, fouling) at a great rate. Kendall Marshall continues to struggle statistically, but has at times shown tremendous poise when running the team's high-powered offense. And of course, Archie Goodwin has been one of the most sensational rookies in Vegas (with plays such as this).

The Suns also have some great reserves in Dionte Christmas, Diante Garrett, Chris Babb, and Arinze Onuaku, all of whom have played arguably well enough to earn a roster spot. The problem is that the Suns' actual roster is already pretty packed with 15 guaranteed contracts. It will be very interesting to see if the team makes any moves to free up a roster spot or two.

On the other side, the Warriors haven't been the most efficient team. However, they are a great defensive squad that also has solid talent on their roster. Kent Bazemore has been lighting up the Summer League to the tune of nearly 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. He's also getting help from Draymond Green, the Warriors' second round pick from 2012 who was a rotation player for them last year, playing an integral role in their playoff run.

Other notable names include former Iona College point guard Scott Machado (who has started every game for Golden State despite shooting a ridiculously low 18% from the field and 8% from three - wow), guard Cameron Jones (a D-League standout), shooting guard Ian Clark (an undrafted rookie who led the Miami Heat's Orlando Summer League squad in scoring), along with big men Dwayne Jones (who was actually on the Suns' regular roster for a bit in 2010), and Gary McGhee (a center from Pitt who spent the last two years playing in Europe).

What to Watch For

- Kent Bazemore vs. Archie Goodwin: This will be the matchup of the game. Goodwin, already the new favorite player of many Suns fans, will have to try and keep Bazemore, one of Summer League's highest scorers, in check. Bazemore is also a good defender so Archie will have to bring his best tonight. This should be a great litmus test for the 18 year old.

-Suns front-court vs. Warriors' front-court: The Suns' front-court has a clear advantage here with actual NBA talent in Tucker and the Morris twins, whereas the Warriors only have Draymond Green and a couple of fringe-NBA big men.

-Kendall Marshall: Marshall has received much criticism for his supposedly lackluster performance thus far in Summer League. While he's by no means blowing away his competition, I think he has shown a lot of promise in his ability to lead the team and run a fast-paced offense. He has also displayed better touch as a spot-up shooter, knocking down one three pointer per game while shooting 50%. He'll be facing Scott Machado in this game, who's a quick point guard but is really struggling with his shot.

-Which reserve will make the team? As mentioned earlier, the Suns have 15 players under contract for the upcoming season. Pending a trade to get rid of some players, they have absolutely no roster space, though they can invite players to their training camp. This likely means that Christmas, Garrett, Babb, Onuaku, and Oriakhi are all competing for one available spot on the team's final roster. Personally, I like Christmas (versatile, do-it all guard, will be 27 soon), Babb (undrafted rookie, very good 3-point shooter, solid defender), and Onuaku (a big body that can be useful at the end of the bench as a 12th man, as well as in practice). Let's see which of them steps up tonight.

Why Does This Matter?

Many people are wondering why summer league success even matters. Both of these teams have been seriously competing to do well in the first-ever Summer League tournament. Truth be told, what happens in Summer League should be relatively inconsequential - you should never extrapolate conclusions from overreactions to Summer League play. So what could be the point in trying to win meaningless games?

For these teams, it's all about setting a tone and a mindset. The Golden State Warriors have not lost a summer league game since 2011. The actual Warriors team is coming off a successful year which saw Steph Curry break out into a bonafide star in the league, leading his Warriors team to the second round of the playoffs before they ultimately lost a competitive series to the San Antonio Spurs. Having signed Andre Iguodala in the offseason, they hope to accomplish even greater things in the upcoming season. For them, Summer League is about setting a winning mindset and culture that they can carry with them into the regular season.

The Phoenix Suns are also taking Summer League very seriously, albeit for slightly different reasons. The team has a vastly remodeled front office, with a new General Manager and Head Coach that want to lead Phoenix out of the purgatory it has been stuck in for the last few years. They know that the players and fans are starved for success and that a great showing in Vegas can bring at least a little bit of excitement back to the team, something it desperately needs as it continues rebuilding and experiencing growing pains. In an interview with Hoopsworld two days ago, Markieff Morris said, "It was terrible" when asked about the trials of last year's losing season.

Our own Dave King said it best:

I hope Suns fans just enjoy the moment without over analyzing other scenarios. Suns are 6-0. Smile big.

— Dave King (@DaveKing_BSotS) July 22, 2013

There you go, Suns fans. Just watch the young guys play and enjoy what you see. Tune in at 6pm PDT to witness what could possibly be the first championship in Phoenix Suns history.

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