Paul George isn't the only Pacer earning Weekly Honors. The NBA D-League announced on Monday that Rakeem Christmas had been named Performer of the Week for games played from November 30 through December 6.
Christmas spearheaded a 3-0 week for the Mad Ants, averaging 24.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks. Christmas grabbed a season-high 13 rebounds to go along with 25 points and 3 blocks against the Westchester Knicks last Wednesday. His encore was scoring 25 or more points in three of his last four games.
Indiana's rookie continued his stellar play Wednesday afternoon against the Delaware 87ers, recording 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocks. Here are the numbers that made this edition of The Christmas List.
3.75: The number of blocks Rakeem Christmas is averaging over the last four games, seventh-best in the D-League over that same span of time. At 6-foot-9, Christmas would be an undersized (traditional) NBA center; however, his 7-foot-5 wingspan makes it conceivable that he could still hold down the paint in reserve lineups despite his smaller stature. His 9-foot-2 standing reach, per DraftExpress, aids his ability to protect the rim, but his true talent is in his timing.
Christmas averaged 2.5 blocks per game last season as a senior at Syracuse.
6.7: Free throw attempts per game, sixth-best in the D-League (minimum six games played). Christmas' smaller stature is an asset against traditional centers. His athletic first-step and diversified skill set in the post make for a lethal combination against opposing frontcourt players. During the first frame of Wednesday's contest against the 87ers alone, he drained a left elbow jumper, made an And-1 floater, and converted an alley-oop dunk in traffic.
Indiana's rookie has attempted at least nine free throws in each of his last five games.
25: The number of three-pointers head coach Steve Gansey wants the Mad Ants to attempt per game, per The Journal Gazette's Justin A. Cohn. Not unlike their parent club, Fort Wayne is attempting to play a more uptempo brand of basketball, which is predicated almost entirely by guards driving-and-kicking the ball to open three-point shooters.
Christmas is capable of driving the ball to the basket, but he still needs to refine his passing skills -- especially when opponents throw multiple defenders at him. Averaging less than one assist per game, the rookie is oftentimes better served acting as a reverse floor spacer. When Christmas runs the floor, he pulls opposing defenses inward, leaving trailing shooters wide open.
As of now, the Mad Ants are averaging 21.1 three-point attempts per game.
- The Mad Ants continue to struggle on the road. After Wednesday's loss to Delaware, Fort Wayne moves to 2-3 (.400) as compared to 5-1 at home (.833).
- Despite shooting 1-of-7 from three-point range, Shayne Whittington put forth his best game of the season against the 87ers, recording 17 points and 15 rebounds while connecting on 6-of-12 field goals. The second-year Pacer's best play of the game came during the team's first overtime period, when he passed up an open three-point attempt; instead choosing to pump fake and drive to the rim to put the Mad Ants up, 108-106.
- Since returning from a rib injury, Whittington has posted two double-doubles and is averaging 10.7 points and 9.5 rebounds on 32.6 percent shooting. And get this: He is a perfect 16-of-16 from the free throw line on the season.
- C.J. Fair, who signed a training camp deal with the Pacers last summer, made a game-tying three-pointer with 0.4 of a second left in regulation on Wednesday. With 7.7 seconds left in double-overtime, he made another game-tying bucket.
- Delaware 87ers forward Sean Kilpatrick, who is currently ranked seventh on the NBA D-League's Top 25 Prospect Watch, scored a career-high 45 points on 18 field goal attempts against the Mad Ants.
- Terran Petteway, in what was his second game coming off the bench after being replaced in the starting lineup by Marcus Simmons, poured in a career-best 36 points in the Mad Ants win over the Canton Charge. He didn't play Wednesday because of an ankle injury, per Justin A. Cohn of The Journal Gazette.