Wizards guard Garrett Temple looks to pass around Philadelphia 76ers guards Hollis Thompson and Scottie Wilbekin in the second half of a preseason game. ( / )

Garrett Temple did not ignore the tug in his right hamstring a couple weeks ago. He had learned his painful lesson several months earlier, when he assumed a minor ache in the hamstring would disappear eventually. Then, on March 9, he limped off the court in Charlotte with the help of a trainer, biting his red road jersey as he exited gingerly.

He was unavailable for the Washington Wizards’ remaining 18 regular season contests and missed their entire sweep of the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. He didn’t appear in a game again until Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks. The frustrating experience was ingrained in Temple’s memory earlier this month, when he reported the slight ache and the Wizards, proceeding with caution, shut him down.

“I caught something before something bad happened,” Temple said. “We found out what caused it, so we’re going to work on things to correct that.”

The tentative approach is paying dividends: Temple returned to practice Monday, intensified his workload to the maximum Tuesday, is expected to play in one, if not both, of the Wizards’ final two preseason games this week and should be in uniform when the Wizards open the regular season next week. Washington traveled to Miami on Tuesday afternoon for Wednesday night’s matchup with the Heat and will face the Toronto Raptors on Friday night in Montreal.

“It would be good to get at least one more game in before the start of the season, just to get my bearings back,” Temple said.

One year ago, Temple, 29, was on the other end of the injury equation. He had established himself as a reliable and versatile piece for the Wizards, a positive locker room presence who accepted his role at the end of bench. But when Bradley Beal, his closest friend on the team, fractured his left wrist, Temple, an undrafted journeyman before landing in Washington, was thrown into the action as the team’s starting shooting guard.

His finest individual stretch in the NBA followed. Temple started Washington’s first 13 games and made 36.4 percent of his three-point attempts while supplementing solid defense. He helped the Wizards start the season 9-4, and his effectiveness allowed Washington to slowly work in Beal, who was inserted in the starting lineup after coming off the bench his first four games once healthy.

“It was definitely the best I’ve played statistics-wise,” Temple said. “But it’s different if you’re on a team that doesn’t have a winning record or isn’t competing for anything.”

Once Beal was unleashed, Temple returned to his usual role: little-used utility player capable of manning multiple positions. He fell out of the rotation and didn’t play consistent minutes again until the end of January.

The expectation was Temple would assume that role again this season when the Wizards stocked up on wing players over the offseason. They signed Gary Neal and Alan Anderson, traded for Jared Dudley and drafted Kelly Oubre Jr. to go with Martell Webster, Otto Porter Jr. and Beal. But injuries have modified the plan again. This time, Anderson and Webster are expected to miss significant time. Add Oubre’s inexperience and Temple could find himself on the court more than expected once again.

“That’s kind of what he does,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “Always, as a coach, I love having guys like that on the team, that can sit there and now step in and he believes in himself, and the teammates believe in him.”

Wittman highlighted Temple’s improvement as a shooter since he arrived in the District in December 2012, which he noted was evident in Beal’s absence last season. But Temple, always recognized for his defensive ability, believes he’s a more dangerous offensive weapon now as a ballhandler and creator. He has worked on attacking the basket and acknowledged the Wizards’ remodeled offense, heavy on pushing the pace and spacing, suits him.

Caron Butler, who played five seasons for the Washington Wizards, discusses his time in D.C. Butler's book, "Tuff Juice," goes on sale October 7. (Thomas Johnson and Randolph Smith/The Washington Post)

“I’ve done a good job of trying to find my ways of getting to the paint and finding other people and finding shots for myself and get to the line,” Temple said. “I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Temple displayed his upgrades in the Wizards’ preseason opener, nearly tallying a triple-double with seven points, seven assists and nine rebounds. He was shelved a few days later, playing it safe so he could play when the games count.

Notes: Nene (calf) and DeJuan Blair (knee) didn’t practice Tuesday but made the trip with the team to Miami. Nene has missed Washington’s past two games, but Blair excelled in the Wizards’ wins Friday and Saturday. Webster (hip) and Anderson (ankle) remain out and didn’t travel with the club.