Garrett Temple admitted that he was somewhat surprised when Coach Randy Wittman told him at the afternoon walk-through that he was going to put him back in the starting lineup on Saturday against the Charlotte Bobcats. But after Wittman’s lineup shuffle resulted in a 104-87 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, Temple certainly wasn’t going to question the decision – especially after the Wizards improved to 5-4 with Temple starting alongside John Wall.
“Maybe Witt knew that,” Temple said with a shrug, when informed of the team’s record with him starting at shooting guard.
Temple made his last start at shooting guard before the all-star break at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Feb. 13, but rarely saw the floor once Bradley Beal’s right wrist had fully healed and he was ready to handle more minutes. Wittman decided to give Temple some playing time in Brooklyn and he proved to be effective in slowing down Deron Williams, but the decision to put him in as a starter against Charlotte over a better scorer in Trevor Ariza had more to do with the affect that it would have on Wall.
“It gives us a little more early ball-handling, with Brad out,” Wittman said. “We missed Brad’s ability to put the ball on the floor. Garrett can do some of those things, if we’re pressured and I just felt like we were really overextended with teams really picking up on John, knowing there wasn’t anybody there to alleviate any of that.”
The Wizards were playing their third consecutive game without Beal, who sprained his left ankle in a win on Sunday over Philadelphia. Beal worked out before the game in an attempt to play but determined that his ankle wasn’t ready. His teammates didn’t need him after appearing sloppy in Minnesota, where they committed a season-high 24 turnovers, and got knocked out of sorts against Brooklyn, as Williams matched them with 33 points at halftime and finished with 11 three-pointers.
Wittman decided to make the switch after the team got off to some slow starts. Ariza averaged 10 points his two starts in place of Beal but struggled against Brooklyn, shooting just 2 of 6 from the field. He also went scoreless in the second half against Minnesota and matched his season high with four turnovers.
The Wizards didn’t exactly get out to a great start against the Bobcats and actually pulled away with both Wall and Temple sitting. Ariza provided an immediate boost off the bench and finished with a season-high 26 points and 10 rebounds, becoming the first Wizards reserve in 13 years to produce the same numbers in a win.
“Trev’s been playing well. But he played really well off the bench for us. Whatever Witt decides,” Temple said. “I’ve started before in a situation like this.”
Temple only scored two points against Charlotte and is averaging just 4.5 points in 15 starts this season (he filled in at point guard before Wall made his season debut, with the team going 1-5), but he knows that scoring is not his primary purpose on the floor.
“John is a scorer and I’m really going to put the pressure on guys defensively…and try to push the pace,” Temple said. “I don’t know, we just have a chemistry. My shot may fall, my shot may not fall, but you can’t think about that. You can’t let that dictate how your game is going to go. Defensively, I’m going to be the best that I can be and get a couple of assists and rebounds.”
The Wizards only have two starting lineups with winning records and both feature Beal or Temple surrounded by Wall, Nene, Martell Webster and Emeka Okafor. “Garrett just knows his role, comes in and plays his role, don’t do nothing out of the ordinary for him and does the job defensively on whoever he’s guarding,” Wall said. “We’re winning with him in there.”