SACRAMENTO -- The NBA world is much smaller than one would think. Teams roll into a new city prepping for a game, but also looking forward to seeing old faces. For many of the Washington Wizards, a trip to Sacramento isn’t just another road game, it’s a chance to catch up with veteran wing Garrett Temple.
Temple left the Wizards over the summer, signing a three-year, $24 million deal in Sacramento. The journeyman out of LSU more than doubled his career earnings in his first season with Sacramento, and for the first time in his seven seasons in the league, he has long-term stability. But that doesn’t mean that leaving was easy.
“This organization gave me a chance to get back in the league,” Temple said of the Wizards. “Because of that, I’ve been able to prolong my career. I have nothing but respect for them, nothing but positive things to say about them.”
Known for his locker room presence and tireless work ethic, Temple left Washington after four seasons. For many of the Wizards players, he was a mentor and a big brother.
“I was mad that we didn’t get to sign him back,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal told CSN California. “I’m still a little salty about it sometimes. That’s a great friend, that’s somebody you always want in your locker room. You always want a guy like that who bonds well with everybody, who’s a leader, who is vocal, leads by example, works hard and is a true professional both on and off the floor.”
Beal came to Washington as the third overall selection in the 2012 NBA Draft. He’s never known the hardship of working his way into the league like Temple, but the two bonded over plenty of things, including their faith.
“He made my life easy,” Beal said. “He helped me out a lot. That’s my brother to this day.”
Beal wasn’t the only young player to come through DC while Temple was on the roster. Another top three selection, small forward Otto Porter joined the Wizards via the 2013 NBA Draft. Like Beal, Temple instantly filled the role of mentor.
“Great guy overall, not just a great locker room guy,” Otto Porter said. “He was with me for three years and I learned from him how to be a professional, how to show up for work. Just his dedication to the game. His story is unbelievable - a guy getting cut and sticking with it. Just an unbelievable guy.”
Temple found himself bouncing in and out of the league as a young player, signing five different 10-day contracts and even playing in Italy before sticking in Washington. It was a journey and he kept an open mind to the experience every step of the way.
“I was blessed to be able to be on a lot of different teams, a lot of different organizations - some good, some not and I was able to pull from the ones that were good and I try to bring that knowledge to every team I go to,” Temple said.
His perseverance is something that stands out when addressing young players. Temple fought for his place in the NBA world and you can’t do that without having a passion for the sport.
“He loves the game,” Porter added. “He’s the type of guy that takes care of you and shows you the ropes. They’re lucky to have him in the locker room and in the organization. He’s a great person overall.”
Sacramento brought Temple in for his versatility on the floor, but also for his leadership behind the scenes. Voted the Teammate of the Year last season with the Wizards, the 30-year-old Temple is part of a veteran core taxed with bringing along the Kings' young players, which includes four first-round selections from the 2016 NBA Draft.
Temple has seen young players come into the league as high picks and he’s been there as they take time develop. He couldn’t be more proud of the men and players that both Beal and Porter have become and he hopes to bring that same mentorship to Sacramento.
“I really want to leave my mark on this organization as being a guy that can help mold people into being the right type of pro,” Temple said. “Hopefully I’ve started doing that.”
Temple credits his parents for giving him the work ethic and guidance along the way. He also will tell you that his faith has helped steer his path, but there was one stop in his NBA journey that set the standard for how to he approaches the game.
Following a very brief stop with the Kings during the 2009-10 season, Temple signed a 10-day contract with the Spurs and then inked a deal to play out the final month of the season in San Antonio. He was with the team coming into the 2010-11 season, but played just three games before being waived.
In total, Temple played just 16 games for the Spurs over two seasons, but his experience made a tremendous impression.
“You see Tim Duncan getting in his routine everyday before shootaround, before practice, no matter what,” Temple said of his time in San Antonio. “You see Tony (Parker) and Manu (Ginobili) getting their work in. You see the way Pop (Gregg Popovich) coaches and keeps people accountable. From the top down - from the owner to the towel person, everybody is held accountable, everybody is doing their job.”
Sacramento will rely heavily on Temple and other veterans on the team to help usher in a new crop of young players. Between Willie Cauley-Stein and the four 2016 first round selections on the roster, the Kings have plenty of youth. It will get even crazier this summer when the team will potentially add two more first-round selections, an early second-round selection and possibly add Serbian wing Bogdan Bogdanovic to the roster.
The Kings have made plenty of mistakes in free agency over the years, but Temple isn’t one of them. His versatility on the court is welcomed, but his leadership off the floor is a necessity as the franchise begins to rebuild from the ground up.