- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2014

Sent home from a workout for the Wizards without a contract in 2012, Garrett Temple finally started to feel a little down. Since going undrafted out of LSU in 2009, Temple had been in and out of the NBA, on multiple D-League teams, played in Italy and cut more times than he ever anticipated.

The Wizards had brought in Temple and guard Chris Quinn, now an assistant coach for the Miami Heat, for a workout Dec. 17 that season. After the two finished on the Wizards’ practice court in the bottom of the back end of Verizon Center, coach Randy Wittman informed each the team would not be signing them.

Temple flew back to Reno. He was playing for the Bighorns, his third D-League team, and Christmas was close. He packed a small bag then flew to Louisiana to spend the holiday with his family.

The Wizards called again on Dec. 23. They wanted him there Christmas day. Temple and his meager amount of belongings flew out to D.C., signed Dec. 25 and began to practice. Almost two years later, Washington has become his first professional basketball home.

“Crazy, right?” Temple said Monday, leaning against the wall of the same practice court.

There were still complications. Temple’s stuff was in Reno and the Bighorns did not have the finances to ship it out. He purchased new clothes as he started yet another NBA life — he had been on five other teams at one point or another — spending the season without his things. They were reacquired when the season ended.

Temple has been scrapping for a chance since finishing at LSU. His opportunity this season came when Bradley Beal oddly landed on his wrist in the preseason, producing an injury that needed surgery. That was followed by an emphatic right ankle sprain for Glen Rice Jr. Martell Webster was already out because of a back problem.

Beal will visit a doctor in New York City next week and remains projected for a end-of-November return.

In went Temple. He has started the first three games this season at shooting guard because of the large injury haul. He’s also excelled in that brief time.

Temple is averaging 12 points per game. His career average is a meager 3.5. He’s also shooting 46.2 percent from behind the 3-point line. All of that is secondary to his defense.

Noticing his long arms, Temple’s AAU assistant coach suggested to the recent teenager he could be a superior defender. Then-LSU assistant head coach, Butch Pierre, reinforced the idea when Temple, a Baton Rouge native, arrived on campus.

Around six months later, Temple’s name became nationally known when he locked up Duke senior star J.J. Redick in the Sweet 16, helping the Tigers to the Final Four. Temple was a freshman and Redick was regarded as the best player in the country. The latter shot just 3-for-18 in his final college game.

Temple’s winding professional journey began three years after that. He started with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the D-League. In 2010, he played for the Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs, totaling 27 games.

The next season it was back to the D-League, then to the Milwaukee Bucks, back to the D-League, then back to the Spurs before finishing with the Charlotte Bobcats. The following season, Temple played for Novipiù Casale Monferrato in Italy.

“I was always kind of positive,” Temple said. “Every time I got cut or every time they didn’t sign me to a rest-of-the-season deal or another 10 day, I just stayed positive. Understanding that God has a plan for me, if I keep working, if this is what I’m supposed to be doing, eventually, I’d do it. I stayed pretty positive. I didn’t let it get me down as much as some guys would.”

His mother, Sondra Johnson Temple, did not take it as well.

“Sometimes, my mom would be a little more worried than I would [be],” Temple said. “I’d tell her to just calm down, relax. A lot of times, if you talk to her, she loves me so much and wants me to do so good, she gets overwhelmed sometimes. I’m the one kind of supporting her and consoling her sometimes when things would happen.”

Defense-first is fine with Wittman. He likes that Temple can play point guard, shooting guard and small forward. He can also guard all three positions. It doesn’t hurt that he has it together. Center Marcin Gortat called Temple the smartest player on the team.

“The NBA, it’s a lifestyle,” Temple said. “It’s a great lifestyle to be in. You have to be smart. You have to be responsible. You have to be dedicated and understand that you’re here to work. You cherish the things that you’re given, but you understand at the end of the day it’s your work.”

Last season was a struggle, however. The Wizards acquired veteran Andre Miller and pushed Temple so far down the rotation that he hardly played the final month of the season. His shooting percentages — 36.2 percent from the field and 20.7 percent from 3 — were too low for even his stout defense to counter.

During the summer, he worked on his follow-through and ball-handling in Baton Rouge, where he still lives in the offseason.

His accuracy has improved early this season. Temple has been a threat from the corner, scored a career-high 18 points in the home opener and been a welcome bridge during the influx of injuries.

Christmas this season will be another marker for Temple. He’ll be with the Wizards when they play the New York Knicks on national television. This time, his bags will be in one place.

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