Wizards point guard Garrett Temple has gone to the ends of the earth to chase his dream of playing in the NBA.
At least it seems that way after spending his first four years of professional basketball playing for three different teams in the NBA Developmental League and another stint in Italy, along with five brief stays in the NBA.
If Temple hopes to make his latest trip to the NBA longer than his others – he’s never played more than 13 games in a single NBA season – he’ll need to play more games like the one he had Friday night.
The 26-year-old guard out of LSU played a career-high 34 minutes and recorded 13 points, six assists, six rebounds and two steals in the Wizards’ 105-97 victory over the Orlando Magic.
“Garrett was huge,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “I think I had him guarding three people at one time. If a guy got hot I put him on him.”
That guy for the Magic was Jameer Nelson, who ripped off 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting from the field and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc in the first quarter.
“I told Shelvin [Mack], he must have drank some hot juice,” Temple said of Nelson. “He wasn’t missing in the first quarter, so we tried to get in on him a little more. That’s what I came here to do, be a defender.”
Temple was playing for the Reno Bighorns of the D-League when he received a phone call from Wizards vice president of basketball administration Tommy Sheppard, asking if he’d be interested in signing with the Wizards.
Temple had just left Reno to see his family in Louisiana for Christmas when he received the call. He quickly changed his plans and caught a flight to Washington to practice with the Wizards on Christmas day.
Temple made his Wizards debut Wednesday night and netted two points in 19 minutes, but when Wittman inserted him to defend Nelson, he found it difficult to take him out.
Nelson managed just two points in his final three quarters.
“Garrett doesn’t know half of what we’re doing,” Wittman said. “I’m throwing him out there to the wolves and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Bradley Beal said the key to Friday night’s victory was Temple’s defensive work on Nelson and J.J. Redick.
“He was thrown in the fire and he’s been tremendous for us,” Beal said. “He’s making the right reads and he’s defending his butt off, which is what we need most. He took Jameer Nelson out of his game early.”
Temple knows his time in D.C. will depend on two things – the health of point guards John Wall and A.J. Price and his ability to play stifling defense. He says he’ll keep playing as if the NBA is no different than the D-League.
“The three point line is the same distance, the goal is still 10 feet,” he said. “You just have to play with confidence. You have to know guys. You have to study film, study tendencies guys have, and you have to get help from your teammates.”
On Friday night, Temple and the Wizards managed to master all three.