Since John Wall was diagnosed with a stress injury in his left knee, the Wizards have hired Jannero Pargo, fired Shelvin Mack, fired Pargo, hired Shaun Livingston, fired Livingston, re-hired Mack and hired Garrett Temple after firing big man Earl Barron.
The cards on the deck keep getting shuffled but the results have been the same: The offense has been in shambles and the Wizards keep losing.
Coach Randy Wittman will likely go with his 11th different starting lineup and fourth different starting point guard on Wednesday, when the Wizards (3-22) host the Cleveland Cavaliers at Verizon Center.
Mack and Temple both signed on Tuesday, participated in practice shortly thereafter and will be expected to play significant roles for a team that has been decimated by injuries.
“We’re going to throw them to the wolves right away, see what they can handle, what they can do,” Wittman said. “For the first day, they didn’t struggle too bad.”
Wittman acknowledged that Mack probably has the initial advantage over Temple, since the Wizards’ second-round pick from 2011 is already more familiar with the system and the personnel after being with the team all of last season and through training camp.
Mack lost out to Pargo because the team thought it would need a veteran who could better spread the floor. Two months later, the Wizards are in desperate need of a steadying presence with Wall out indefinitely, and A.J. Price out for at least two more weeks because of a broken right hand.
With the Jordan Crawford experiment yielding uneven offensive flow, and Livingston unable to find much comfort in Washington, the Wizards called on Mack, who was averaging 20.2 points and 7.1 assists for the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Developmental League.
“A lot of guys go down there and out and mope, ‘Woe is me. This isn’t fair,’ and then they stay there or are out of the league. So, it’s a credit to them,” Wittman said of Mack and Temple. “I told Shelvin I didn’t bring him back up here because I knew him, because he was here but also because of what he did while he was down there.”
Mack said his time in the D-League helped him gain confidence and a greater appreciation for being in the league. “Be thankful for every opportunity you get. I also understand since I’m here now that there are still guys in the D-League that want the same opportunity that I have. So just keep grinding every day just stay positive and continue to get better.”
Temple was out of the NBA last season while playing in Italy, but has averaged 3.8 points and one assist in 51 career games with Houston, Sacramento, Milwaukee, San Antonio and Charlotte. He was averaging 14.5 points and 3.6 assists for Rio Grande, Erie and Reno in the D-League this season.
Though he didn’t know much about the Wizards before Tuesday’s practice, he worked with assistant Don Newman for two seasons in San Antonio.
“I know that they beat the defending champs, they’ve been in a lot of games and lost close games and I see that they have a talented group. A young group but a talented group,” Temple said. “Just have a [barrage] of injuries. You can’t help that. It’s a team that can improve.”
The Wizards are looking for the 6-foot-6 Temple to provide a defensive presence that has been lacking since Price went down. “I thought with where we were at, we really started getting broken down there at the point with the different guys that we had faced with Shaun and JC,” Wittman said. “I wanted to make sure defensively that we became, had the potential to become more solid at the point with a defender, and he’s got good size, too.”
The battered and beaten down Wizards got back to work after getting two days off to think about something other than being the league’s worst team.
And, they will have an immediate reunion with Livingston, who was claimed off waivers on Tuesday by Cleveland, which created a roster spot by waiving guard Donald Sloan.
Livingston will hold the unique distinction of having two stints in Washington over the past four seasons and never having the opportunity to share the floor with Wall. He left in the summer of 2010, shortly after Wall was drafted, and got waived after signing back with the team on Dec. 15 and averaging 3.7 points and 2.2 assists in 17 games.
Now Mack and Temple will take their chances in directing what has been the league’s worst offense this season. And hope that they will be able to stick around whenever Wall makes his season debut.