Like many teams that have piled up losing seasons, the Kings are seeking the elusive culture change and searching for players who can facilitate it.
They believe Garrett Temple is one of those players. The guard has provided the even-keel voice in the locker room the Kings sought when they brought him in this season.
The roster and plans have changed, but Temple’s demeanor hasn’t. He continues to be a calming leader. Temple’s locker in Golden 1 Center was next to DeMarcus Cousins’ most of the season, positioning him to have a positive influence on Cousins.
Tyreke Evans has filled that stall since arriving in a trade from New Orleans for Cousins, but that doesn’t mean Temple has stopped talking.
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“The players that are playing have gotten a lot younger so it’s more of a teaching, mentoring role,” Temple said. “Whereas when Cuz was here, if I’m talking to him it’s more of a keeping him calm, talking more nuances of the game, things that we can do better as a team. But with the young guys it’s a lot of specifics about how to get open, how to defend, ways to teach them the veteran tricks we all have learned in our years in the league.”
In Temple’s seven seasons, he has played for coaches such as Gregg Popovich and Rick Adelman. He’s also had the likes of John Wall and Tim Duncan as teammates, so he’s picked up a lot of knowledge to share.
“He’s good for (the young players),” said Kings coach Dave Joerger. “He’s a classy guy.”
Temple remains positive despite his job growing more difficult due to roster changes and injuries. There are nights Temple (6-foot-6, 195) is defending much bigger wing players, a role he and Arron Afflalo inherited because of Rudy Gay’s season-ending injury and Matt Barnes being waived.
Sunday in San Antonio, that meant defending MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard and this week doesn’t get much easier. On Wednesday, the Kings hosted the Milwaukee Bucks, who have one of the NBA’s most versatile players in Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Sacramento plays the Golden State Warriors on the road Friday.
Temple, who is often called on to defend the best perimeter players, sees it as a teaching opportunity.
“It’s an adjustment, but at the end of the day, you try to take them out of what they want to do as best as you can,” Temple said. “With Kawhi, we tried to keep him out of the lane as much as possible, keep him from getting to his spots. ... Much more of a team defensive effort, but that’s good because we get to learn defensive principles and our young guys get to learn even more.”
Many of the young players say Temple is a valuable resource in their development.
“We’ve got a great group of vets,” said rookie Skal Labissiere. “From Garrett, to Anthony (Tolliver), Kosta (Koufos), they do a really good job of leading us. It’s good to learn from them so when I’m a vet I’ll know how to give to the younger guys, too.”