Garrett Temple has dreams and goals, but no illusions. The Kings veteran guard recognized who he was, what he is, where he can be most effective during his standout prep career in Baton Rouge, La.
This is not the straw that stirs the drink – he leaves those duties and grand pronouncements to the stars on his teams – but rather the player who plugs the gaps.
Need a breather for Darren Collison or Ty Lawson? Temple shifts to point guard. Hoping someone can slow down opposing high-scoring small forwards? He eagerly accepts the challenge, though his rangy 6-foot-6 frame often puts him at a physical disadvantage. Dissatisfied with shooting guards Ben McLemore and Arron Afflalo? He welcomes the opportunity to start or play significant minutes at the position where he is most comfortable.
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Temple, 30, will play anywhere. Mars. Pluto. Saturn. Sacramento, Houston, Miami. Just give him a job. Finally, after spending parts of his first three seasons with five NBA teams and three NBA Development League squads, Temple developed into a consistent contributor the past four seasons with Washington. Now he has emerged as one of general manager Vlade Divac’s most valuable acquisitions after signing a three-year, $24 million contract last offseason.
A persuasive argument can be made that after DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, Temple has been the Kings’ most consistent player. Dividing time at three positions, and starting at shooting guard Tuesday night against Detroit, he is averaging 7.5 points, 2.2 assists and 2.8 rebounds. He also is shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from 3-point range in 25.4 minutes per game.
While the stats reveal the Kings’ lack of a prolific third scorer (Temple ranks 37th in player efficiency rating), they fail to reflect Temple’s value on and off the court. He is like a member of the backup band, a smooth chorus crooner whose assorted skills enhance the lead singers.
Every time I got cut, the coaches would say, ‘It’s a numbers game,’ but they were adamant that I was an NBA player. I trusted that. And it helped that I didn’t need money or have to chase a career in Europe. I went to the D-League and kept hoping for another chance.
Garrett Temple, Kings guard
In a typical outing, Temple will chase down an opponent and contest a shot on the break, patrol the passing lanes and deflect balls, curl around a screen and convert a jumper from the foul line, hit a 3-pointer in transition and facilitate the halfcourt offense, often finding teammates on back cuts or for open jumpers.
Thankfully, he does not dominate the ball or even need it in his hands to be effective.
The self-awareness began in high school, when Temple directed a squad that featured Glen “Big Baby” Davis and captured two Division II state championships.
“I have always been under the radar,” Temple said, “and always been on teams with stars, so I became the glue guy. In high school (at LSU Laboratory School), I played mostly point guard. At LSU, on a team with ‘Big Baby’ and Tyrus Thomas, I played the one, two and three positions, but I always led the team in assists. That was when I really developed my mindset, becoming both a facilitator and defender.”
The LSU grad, who went undrafted in 2009, has a fascinating background. The Temples are among the most prominent and socially active families in Baton Rouge. Garrett’s father, Collis Jr., was the first African American to play basketball at Louisiana State University (1971-74) and had a cup of coffee with San Antonio. He currently acquires real estate and, with his ex-wife, Soundra Temple Johnson, operates group homes for mentally ill residents and women with substance abuse issues. Garrett’s older brother, Collis III, also attended LSU Laboratory School and was recruited to LSU.
“I consider myself privileged to have coached three of (Collis Jr’s) kids in high school,” said Ari Fisher, currently an eighth-grade coach and instructor at LSU. “You spend time around the Temples, and they’re the type of people who enhance lives. They fight for the people who can’t fight for themselves. Collis tries to show people that nobody is invisible, so I wasn’t surprised when Garrett came home and became involved with the community a few months ago after the police shootings.”
Temple, among several Kings who participated in a town hall meeting with Sacramento law enforcement officials and area youth in November, shrugged and said, “It was the right thing to do.”
I have always been under the radar and always been on teams with stars, so I became the glue guy.
Garrett Temple, Kings guard
Fisher said he relied just as heavily on Temple’s compassion and leadership as his on-court versatility. When Davis began to struggle with his troubled home life, Temple and his family offered a bedroom and a sense of stability.
“We won state titles in 2002 and 2004,” Fisher said, “and we would have won a third if I didn’t screw up in the semifinal game in 2003. I saved a timeout in the closing seconds when I shouldn’t have, and a lot of good that did me. I have always shouldered the blame for that, but Garrett keeps going back to the school, stays in touch and keeps telling me it wasn’t my fault. He is an amazing person.”
Fisher described the Kings guard as “the most cerebral player” he ever coached. “We played fast, yet under control,” Fisher said. “Basketball isn’t a very complicated game. The team that makes the most shots usually wins. Garrett usually played the point, but I liked to get him off the ball and let him roam. His arms are so long, I used to say that he could touch the floor without bending at the waist.”
Though Temple finished among Louisiana State’s all-time leaders in assists, steals and blocks, he took several years to find an NBA niche. His career included brief stops in Houston, Sacramento, San Antonio, Milwaukee and Charlotte before he became a valuable role player with Washington. He also took a one-year trip to Italy and a grand tour of the D-League with stops in Erie, Pa., Rio Grande, Texas, and Reno.
“Every time I got cut, the coaches would say, ‘It’s a numbers game,’ ” Temple recalled, “but they were adamant that I was an NBA player. I trusted that. And it helped that I didn’t need money or have to chase a career in Europe. I went to the D-League and kept hoping for another chance.”
He found one in Washington and now Sacramento.