For most people, finding out they have to work on Christmas Day isn't exactly the kind of present they want. For Shelvin Mack and Garrett Temple, it was the best gift of all.
Unhappy with the play at the point guard spot, Wizards coach Randy Wittman decided a change was needed. Washington opened up two roster spots by releasing center Earl Barron and guard Shaun Livingston, then signed Temple and Mack from the NBA Developmental League.
Temple had a few days off from the Reno Bighorns and was spending time with family in the D.C. area. Mack, who was with the Maine Red Claws, was about to work out for the Boston Celtics.
"I got a call from Mr. [Tommy] Sheppard," Temple recalled, referring to the Wizards' vice president of basketball administration. "He said, 'I hope I'm not ruining your Christmas, but we have practice on Christmas Day and we want you up here.' I told him it was the present I wanted."
Temple, 26, has bounced between the NBA and the NBA D-League since 2009, when he finished college at Louisiana State. The 6-foot-6 combo guard has played for Houston, Sacramento, San Antonio, Milwaukee and Charlotte, mostly on a series of 10-day contracts at the end of the season.
"This is a young group but a talented group," Temple said. "They just have a [lot] of injuries. I'm looking forward to coming in here and having an opportunity."
The December call-up is the earliest for Temple, who expects to be used as a backup point guard.
"They brought me and Shelvin [Mack] in here for a reason," Temple said. "Jordan [Crawford] is a great player, but they need him to score and maybe not worry about setting people up as much. We have a chance to come in here and play, not do anything that's not our game, but come in here and lead this team and get some wins."
Mack, who was cut by the Wizards after training camp, looked at his demotion to the D-League as a blessing in disguise. Mack was able to play 40-plus minutes a game, and says it gave him the chance to improve the point guard skills he'll need to stick in the NBA this time.
"The biggest thing I learned is to just be thankful," Mack said of his D-League experience. "One day I was part of the NBA. The next day I was in the D-League. Be thankful for every opportunity you get."
Mack should seamlessly fit into the offense, since he's familiar with Wittman's system and knows his teammates.
"I still have chemistry with the guys," Mack said. "I understand how the guys like the ball in certain situations. I feel like I'm a guy that can get everyone on the same page. I can relate to each guy differently, and I know how certain guys like to be talked to. I think that's going to help tremendously on the court."
Wittman liked what he saw from the Christmas Day practice and expects Mack and Temple to hit the ground running.
"We're going to throw them to the wolves right away, see what they can handle, what they can do," said Wittman, impressed with how Mack and Temple played, and conducted themselves, in the D-League.
"A lot of guys go down there and pout and mope, 'Woe is me, this isn't fair' and then they stay there or are out of the league," Wittman said. "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. That's a credit to them."
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