Garrett Temple’s role changed several times in his four-month stint with the Wizards last season. He was originally cast as a fill-in for the injured John Wall as backup point guard, then became a seldom-used backup, and finished as the starting shooting guard after Bradley Beal went down with a series of ailments.
But his flexibility, versatility and overall positive attitude in the face of constant adjustments made him a favorite of Coach Randy Wittman, who pushed hard to have Temple back in the fold for next season. The Wizards made it clear to Temple that they wanted him back in his exit interviews and proved it by offering him a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum on the third day of the free agent negotiation period.
Temple said he had drawn interest from the two-time defending champion Miami Heat but felt that his free agent decision only came down to one choice – and that was staying with the team that gave him a chance to play in a variety of ways.
“I really like what Washington did, in terms of giving me that chance last year, and if it came down to it, I would’ve easily wanted to reward them for giving me that opportunity,” Temple said on Wednesday in a telephone interview. “I’m glad to be back. I wanted to be back since the season was over. And I’m glad we could get the deal done.
After going undrafted out of LSU, Temple bounced around several spots – in Europe, the NBA Development League and the NBA – before landing in Washington. The Wizards were desperate to find a point guard to run the team with Wall missing the first three months with a stress injury in his left knee and A.J. Price later breaking his hand. Temple was tasked with the job of running the team, getting the start in his second game, and he held the position until Wall was healthy enough to take the reins. When Beal went down, Wittman tried Trevor Ariza at starting shooting guard until he realized that the team needed another ball-handler on the floor to take the pressure off Wall.
“The most surprising part was when Brad got hurt and they told me I was starting,” Temple said, when asked about his season.
Wittman was so committed to having Temple in that role that the Wizards shipped out Jordan Crawford – the starting shooting guard for much of the previous two seasons – to remove any distractions from the team. In 51 games, Temple averaged 5.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists and the Wizards went 15-21 in games he started.
“That showed that Witt really believed in what I can do, in terms of being a backup at the two spot,” Temple said of the Crawford trade. “I really pride myself on my versatility, being able to play one or two positions, being a true combo guard.”
With the Wizards drafting small forward Otto Porter Jr. and swingman Glen Rice Jr., bringing back Martell Webster and adding Eric Maynor, Temple might not get to 22.7 minutes per game as he did last season, but he is ready to accept and adjust to any responsibilities.
“I’ll be the best cheerleader or the guy that plays the most minutes on the court. I’m good with either one,” Temple said. “I’m here to do whatever role coach has for me. They told me that my role probably won’t change, in terms of being the third point guard in the time of crisis. Obviously, I’m going to compete for that second guard role. Wherever I fit in, is wherever I’m going to be. And I’ll be happy with whatever role given to me. I’m the utmost team guy.”
In a career filled with 10-day contracts, D-League call-ups, training camp cuts and partial guarantees, Temple was relieved that his deal was taken care of before July 4.
“I think that’s a big burden off of everybody. I would’ve been relaxed either way,” Temple said. “Me and my agent talked about that. Usually, a guy looking for a veteran minimum contract, usually signs in late July, August, but Washington was real adamant and truthful about what they told me at the end of the year about wanting me back. They really like the core and nucleus of the team that we have.”
Temple likes what the Wizards are building as well and expects the team to advance to the postseason next year.
“I think we have a good shot to be a playoff team,” Temple said. “It’s a lot of talking that we’re doing, but I think we have a good shot to be a playoff team. Obviously, it’s a lot of ifs, but we really believe that we’re going to have a chance to make some noise next year.”