Garrett Temple officially joined the Wizards on Christmas Day. Randy Wittman hasn't stopped beaming about his new 6-foot-6 point guard toy ever since.
Much has been made - and rightfully so - about Washington's improved and inspired play with enhance ball movement following the return of John Wall plus others from injuries. Following Monday's dominant 120-91 win over Orlando, the Wizards' season-high third-straight victory, the coach was asked if the sudden turnaround simply correlates to having many of his core players back.
"Some of it is," Wittman said before reflecting on a just completed stretch of games where he could see momentum building. The players largely tasked with directing the offense in that stretch, Temple and Shelvin Mack, who like Temple received a D-League call-up on Dec. 25.
Unlike Mack, the Wizards 2011 second-round pick who spent last season and this year's training camp with the team, Temple did not have previous experience under Wittman. Also unlike Mack, Temple remains with the team, his contract having been picked up for the full season.
"You guys know how I feel about Garrett...and Shelvin when Shelvin was here," Wittman said. Those two guys did as good a job as you could do. These are two guys we picked up from the D-League, two guys I was asking to run my team.
Then zeroing in on Temple, Wittman continued. "You could see it start, but it's hard to ask a kid that didn't go through training camp, didn't know who the heck I was, and expect the team to be doing what it is now."
Even when factoring in an adjustment period, Temple's pass-first instincts have been evident. On Dec. 28 in just his second game with the team, the former LSU product finished with six assists and 13 points and a team-high plus-22 in a 105-97 win over Orlando. The three-year veteran played 47 minutes and doled out a career-high 11 assists in the Jan. 4 double-overtime loss to Brooklyn.
Even though his minutes have now shrunk and he's coming off the bench with Wall and A.J. Price are back manning the point, Temple's size, defensive prowess and positional versatility gives Wittman reasons to keep him in the backcourt rotation even when the ball-dominant Jordan Crawford returns from his current ankle injury.
Facing Orlando again on Monday, Temple had seven points, four rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes, some of which was spent playing the off-guard role. His 3-pointer in the final minutes put Washington up by 31 points, its largest lead in any game this season.
It's also worth noting that the 7-28 Wizards are 4-6 with Temple on the roster.
"Garrett is kind of our wildcard guy," Wittman said following a recent practice. "He can do a lot of different things. We're going to use him in that way. He gives us the ability to guard probably three positions on the floor. Gives us energy when maybe we're lacking it. I know you can stick in a guy like him and it's going to give your team a boost of energy. That's kind of how I'll look to use Garrett going forward here."
That suits Temple just fine.
"I see my role doing whatever coach needs me to do," Temple said. "John's our guy. A.J. has been playing well. If a guy gets hot and coach needs me to come in and defend or just need me to play some minutes or come in and play some two like I did tonight, I'm ready."
Most all of, he's simply happy to be back in the NBA and sticking around for a while.
Since playing his first game for Houston late in the 2009-10 season, Temple has bounced around from team to team, from the NBA to the sports minor levels. Washington is Temple's seventh stop including two trips with San Antonio. Before landing with the Wizards, he played in 51 games. He's played 10 games already with Washington and barring injury, he'll have an opportunity to play in 56 this season.
"It feels great, definitely a relief and something I expected, I thought playing like I played," Temple said about having his contract picked up for the remainder of the season. " Playing like I played , not making shots, but getting some rebounds, getting some assists. I felt like I helped the team so when they made the decision I was glad, definitely glad."
Seems evident his coach is rather fond of the decision as well.