Garrett Temple was the Miami Heat‘s final training camp cut in October, a move that was jolting on two fronts: Temple believed that he played well enough to earn a roster spot with the defending champions and he was forced to earn another shot in the NBA by going through the Development League. Again.
The injury-ravaged Wizards (4-27) gave Temple another shot in the NBA on Christmas and the journeyman point guard has already started four of his six games with the team. And after handing out a career-high 11 assists and adding eight points and seven rebounds on Friday in a double-overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Temple will have a reunion in Miami on Sunday when the teams square off for the third time this season.
“It’s nothing but love for Miami. They gave me an opportunity to get back in the league. Didn’t work out and sometimes it happens like that,” Temple said. “Just feel like I’m blessed to be in the NBA and have the chance to go over there and play those guys, a great organization.”
Had Temple stuck in Miami, he probably wouldn’t have received much playing time behind Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole — and with the Heat often leaving the ball in the hands of James or Wade to make plays.
But on a Wizards team still waiting for John Wall to make his season debut because of a left patella injury and for A.J. Price to return from a broken right hand, Temple is playing heavy minutes and averaging 6.2 points and 5.7 assists. His goals in returning to Miami are to “get a win and personally, show them that I’m a guy that should be in the NBA.”
The Wizards have split both games with Miami this season, stunning the Heat, 105-101, on Dec. 4 at Verizon Center and getting stomped, 102-72, on Dec. 15 at American Airlines Arena.
Temple knows the Heat well after practicing with and playing with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for nearly a month. That was enough to gain an appreciation for what made them Eastern Conference champions the past two seasons.
“I knew LeBron was a great player, but he earned a lot of respect from me because of the way he works,” said Temple, who averaged 4.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists in six exhibition games. “When they practice, they go hard. Thats part of the reason they were able to win a championship last year and that they are one of the best teams this year, because they put in their work. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but they are beatable.”
Though the Wizards suffered a heartbreaking loss to Brooklyn, Temple said there are plenty of positives to take from that game that can be helpful against Miami.
“We were taking good shots. Finding men in the right places for them to get their shots and the ball was moving,” Temple said. “That’s the thing. When we go to Miami, we have to move the ball because they’ve got a team of real athletic guys and they move around real quickly. So we’ve got to make the ball hop to get good shots, then take the shots when we have them. I think the ball movement was what made us get good shots and we knocked them down.”
NBA contracts become fully guaranteed on Thursday, so the next two games against Miami and Oklahoma City are critical for Temple and Shelvin Mack. The Wizards have gone just 1-5 since bringing the point guard duo in to replace Shaun Livingston and Earl Barron.
Temple hasn’t shot the ball well in Washington, connecting on just 34.1 percent, but he said he starting to get more comfortable with his teammates and what the coaches expect from him on the floor.
“I’ve been able to find my rhythm,” Temple said. “I just got to knock down the open shot, get in the gym, get that confidence up where it needs to be. I’m finally realizing where guys like the ball and where they are going to be to get good shots and I’m trying to find them.”