Hard-working Karima Christmas has always been somewhat of an unsung hero. But this season, she’s also become a quiet assassin for the Dallas Wings.
Beginning franchise life in their new city, the Wings had a tough launch. All-Star point guard Skylar Diggins wasn’t fully recovered from an ACL tear last summer, and starting forward Glory Johnson had to serve a seven-game suspension. In June, forward Plenette Pierson was sidelined for two week with a concussion. Five-year veteran Christmas stepped up.
She is averaging 13.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game – the most in her career. She ranks second on the team in scoring and third in rebounding, and was second in both until Johnson returned to the court. Christmas also averages career-high assist and field goal percentage numbers.
Through the ten different starting line ups, Christmas has kept her spot, and has held down the team at points, as she did last year. She has been a model of consistency.
Coach Fred Williams said Christmas’ leadership has been her biggest asset.
“It’s carried over in her confidence in the structure of things that we do as a team,” Williams said. “Her teammates look to go to her in clutch baskets, and she’s looking to make the big plays down the stretch.”
Christmas has long made her name on the defensive side of the ball, but this season she has gained the confidence through her teammates and coaches to contribute offensively for Dallas. Pierson said Christmas has always been able to do all that she has shown this year, but her confidence level has been the biggest change.
“She has always been a force from the inside, driving to the basket, and getting rebounds and going back up,” Pierson said. “As a team, we encourage her every day to continue to do the things that got her here. I think it’s all coming together for her. She’s understanding where and when she can take her shots and she has extended her game a lot to the three-point line.”
Christmas acknowledged that the support from coaches and teammates has been helpful.
“Coach always says that I am not just a defensive player. I can go out there and score too,” Christmas said. “Having my teammates have my back and my coaches have my back, it’s been good for me.”
A Duke stand out, Christmas was the 23rd pick in the 2011 WNBA draft, but the Washington Mystics cut her midseason. She was signed by the then-Tulsa Shock, and then midway through the 2012 season she was traded to the Indiana Fever, where she helped them win a championship that fall. Christmas was traded back to the Shock in 2015.
The Wings are 9-16 at the Olympic break – a break that was much-needed for a team that was in the midst of a six-game losing streak after losing Johnson for six weeks with an injury. Excluding a 37-point loss to the Minnesota Lynx, Dallas has lost their games by an average of 5.8 points.
“We have been right there in so many games,” Christmas said. “We have to buckle down at the end and get the stops that we need.
Wins have been hard to come by in the WNBA this year, as less than half of the teams have a record above .500. Dallas is a half a game behind the Washington Mystics for the final playoff spot, with a tight race shaping up for the final slots in the last three weeks of the regular season. The Wings have nine games left to right the ship, including five home games.
Christmas said she likes that the team moved to Dallas, as her family lives in Houston and regularly attends home games. This has helped her consistency, as have fans.
“I enjoy living in the city, the people are great, they recognize us when we are out and they are excited to come to our games so that’s always something fun.” Christmas said. “When you are out and about and you have people that are excited to come out and support you.”
Christmas and the Wings will look to begin their playoff push in Phoenix against the Mercury when league play resumes Aug. 26th.