How Garrett Temple went from 10-day journeyman to key contributor

How Garrett Temple went from 10-day journeyman to key contributor


How Garrett Temple went from 10-day journeyman to key contributor

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Last offseason, Garrett Temple signed a three-year, $24 million contract with the Sacramento Kings. That may not have seemed particularly noteworthy, but anyone who knows Temple’s NBA journey understands that this kind of contract seemed improbable just a few years ago.

Temple was the epitome of a journeyman during his first few seasons in the league. After going undrafted out of LSU in 2009, he played on nine different 10-day contracts – the third-most in NBA history. He had stints with the Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Bobcats, Miami Heat and Washington Wizards before returning to Sacramento. He also played for three D-League teams (twice with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, twice with the Erie BayHawks and once with the Reno Bighorns) and suited up in Italy at one point.

Then, he finally experienced success and stuck with an NBA team. His breakthrough came with the Wizards, as he earned his first multi-year contract (a two-year, $2 million deal) from the team in 2014.

Emerging as a versatile 3-and-D contributor and strong leader, he was highly coveted over the summer. In addition to the Kings and Wizards, Temple received free agency interest from the Boston Celtics, New Orleans Pelicans, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Brooklyn Nets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets. The guy who kept getting cut was suddenly being courted by a third of the league.

He ultimately joined the Kings because they seemed the most interested in his services, calling on the first night of free agency and explaining how he’d be used in Sacramento. The money certainly didn’t hurt either. Temple’s deal with the Kings will pay him $8,000,000 annually, which is more than double what he earned during his first six NBA seasons combined.

HoopsHype recently talked to a number of NBA players about what it’s like to play on a 10-day contract. Well, who better to follow up with than Temple – the ultimate 10-day success story? He opened up about his stints with various teams, his mindset as he faced rejection, what it felt like to finally sign a lucrative deal, the fraternity of fringe players and more.

Take me back to your first 10-day contract, which was with the Houston Rockets. What was that experience like?

Garrett Temple: It was interesting. The backstory was that I went to training camp with the Rockets and played on their summer league team before that. When I got cut, they allocated me to their D-League team, so I wasn’t in the D-League draft. I knew they were interested in me, and then they continued to let me know they were interested. I played point guard, shooting guard and even some small forward in college, but when I got to training camp with the Rockets, I was just playing point guard. But when I played for their D-League team, I was mainly a shooting guard. I may have played point guard a little bit, but I was playing two-guard almost exclusively. Fast forward a bit and we had a guy named Will Conroy on our D-League team. He had been called up for a few 10-days in previous years, so when Kyle Lowry got hurt, they called Will Conroy up first. He had been in training camp with the Rockets that season as well. He got called up for one 10-day and everyone on our D-League team was cheering for him, hoping he did well. But he didn’t play very well so after his first 10-day was up.

Then, the coaches called me in and said, “G, you’re not going to be coming with us on this upcoming road trip. You got called up.” I was ecstatic obviously. I was flying out to Miami, I want to say, to meet the team. I just remember being very happy. Because, honestly, I didn’t really know much about the D-League when I got out of college. I remember thinking, “Okay, I made the right decision staying in the U.S.” I just had to wait for my opportunity. When I got the Rockets, I played strictly point guard. I was the back-up and Coach [Rick] Adelman played me in every game throughout the course of my two 10-day contracts. I learned a lot from Aaron Brooks, who was the starter there. I learned from Trevor Ariza, who was there. All of these guys were only a couple years older than me, but they had been in the league longer and had a lot of experience. I just felt ecstatic. One of my brothers actually made the drive from Louisiana to Miami on a whim to watch me play in my first NBA game. That was amazing.

Was it tough to get acclimated, going from the D-League to the Rockets and having such a limited amount of time to learn everything?

GT: The adjustment was a little bit easier since I had been with them in training camp. I knew what the coaching staff was looking for and the organization knew my game. And I’m a guy who can talk to different people and blend in like a chameleon, so that helped me a lot too. I was able to get along with everyone.

Being with their D-League team helped too. It’s not like I was getting called up to a whole new team that ran a new offense and all of that. In fact, they actually used the D-League team to experiment with some stuff. We were their guinea pigs, so we were only taking three-point shots and lay-ups. That was the first year that they were testing that out, so all we shot were three-pointers and lay-ups on my D-League team.

Next, you had a 10-day with the Sacramento Kings. Was that tougher, since you didn’t know the players and organization at all?

GT: Yeah, my second 10-day experience was with Sacramento and I actually didn’t play. I wasn’t playing in any games, even though we had a young team. That was Tyreke Evans’ rookie year and Omri Casspi‘s rookie year, so we had a young team. But they brought me in more so to get a look at me. We actually practiced a little bit more in Sacramento, but I was only there for one 10-day deal. I may have played, like, two minutes in one game. It’s tough to show that you deserve to be there or show you belong in that situation. I was lucky that I had my first two 10-days with Houston since I was comfortable, able to play in games and even score in double-figures a few times. I got a lot of confidence from that.

After my two 10-days with Houston, they actually brought Will Conroy back up for a second 10-day. Before my last game, Kyle Lowry told me, “I’m going to be back in two or three days, so they told me they’re going to bring Will back up for one more 10-day.” So I knew I was leaving Houston. Well, ironically – I can’t even make this up – as I’m driving to the airport to leave Houston, the Kings called and said, “We want to sign you to a 10-day. You need to turn around and go back to Houston, because we play the Rockets in two days.” So my first game with the Kings was in Houston against my old team! At the end of my 10-day with Sacramento, San Antonio was very interested. They told me and my agent that they wanted to give me more a long-term look. They wanted to give me a 10-day, but then more likely than not they were going to sign me for the rest of the season. And again, ironically, my first start in the NBA was against the Kings in Sacramento. It was a whirlwind. It was like a movie.

When you’re in this position, playing on 10-day contracts and your future is up in the air, how hard is that?

GT: It’s difficult. It’s not easy. But when you’re just worried about basketball and you don’t have a family or anything, it’s easier. You don’t have to worry about moving your wife and kids, so it’s fine. I mean, you’re playing in the NBA. You’re living your dream. The pressure is there, but you don’t really pay attention to it while you’re playing, while you’re on the 10-days. You just have to remember that they brought you there for a reason. It’s stressful because you know you only have 10 days to prove yourself. But, at the end of the day, you’re playing basketball and living your dream.

But, at the end of the day, we’re all humans and when that clock is running, it’s hard to block it out. You don’t want to do too much, but you want to show that you belong in the league. It’s a very fine line. You might go out there and shoot an airball in your first ever NBA shot and the fans are thinking, “He sucks! He’s terrible!” They don’t realize what’s going through your head. You’re thinking, “Okay, I have eight days left to make an impression. And the point guard may get healthy in two days, so this may be my only game to play and show what I can do.” All of those things are going through your mind. That’s why when you finally get to the point where you’re just playing and not overthinking things, it’s so much easier.

After playing for the Rockets, Kings and Spurs, your next stint was with the Bucks. Can you walk me through that?

GT: When Milwaukee called me up, it was interesting. I had been playing two-guard the entire time in the D-Leauge. Then, with Milwaukee, they had me playing point guard in practice, but then in games Coach [Scott] Skiles had me playing shooting guard. It was weird! I guess my versatility helped me in terms of getting me opportunities with teams, but it was also kind of working against me because I didn’t know what position I’d be playing so I had to learn several different positions and what to do in plays depending on where I was playing.

Coach Skiles was a very defensive-minded coach, so as long as you played hard, you were good. He was very adamant about playing hard and just being where you were supposed to be defensively. Defense was most important, and then the offense would take care of itself. Coach [Paul] Silas with Charlotte and Coach [Gregg] Popovich with San Antonio were the same way. They were just great guys. They wanted to make sure you were defending hard, and then on offense they just wanted you to play your game.

It’s good to have a coach who tells you what they expect out of you and what they want to see. Some will just tell you to play your game, but you aren’t sure what they want from you. Also, I loved when the coaches who cut me or didn’t re-sign me were completely honest. Coach Skiles told me, “We want to keep you and cut another player, but the ownership won’t let us do it because the other player has a guaranteed contract and they don’t want to pay that player.” I always loved when the coaches were honest.

You played on nine different 10-day contracts, which is the third-most in NBA history.

GT: Was it really nine? Let’s see: Two in Houston, one in Sacramento, one in San Antonio, two in Milwaukee and two in Charlotte. Yeah, that’s nine. Wow. When I was playing, I would think about it sometimes. But by the time I was signed to Milwaukee and Charlotte, I wasn’t thinking of them as 10-days. I was really just thinking, ‘Okay, I’m here. I’m on the team. If they keep me, they keep me. If they don’t, it is what it is. I’m not going to let that affect my game.’ Early on, I think you’re thinking a lot about the 10-days and all that. But then if you start playing well, you get confident, you get comfortable and it’s not on your mind as much. Also, I learned quickly that the plays weren’t really different from team to team, it was just the terminology that was different. So each time I was on a 10-day contract, I did a pretty good job of studying the names of plays so that I was able to pick up things pretty quickly.

It’s definitely tough living out of your suitcase and not really knowing what the future holds, though. The uncertainty is hard to deal with at times. You never know for sure where you stand. It’s a gut-wrenching feeling, but you have to stay professional. I’m a guy who has always to tried to limit my stress. I try not worry about things out of my control; that’s one of my mantras, so that helps. But it’s definitely something you think about, especially early on.

You were bouncing around the NBA and then you signed with a team in Italy during the lockout. Were you tempted to remain overseas since the money is better?

GT: Nah, it wasn’t because my situation in Italy wasn’t the best. My agent and I didn’t know much about the overseas market, so I signed with a team that had just gotten up to the first division and they weren’t great. We had a lot of young Americans; it was the first year overseas for all of the Americans on our team. And if you talk to anyone who has played overseas, they’ll tell you it’s a completely different game. So myself, Matt Janning, Michael Dunigan, we were all young. And our Italian teammates weren’t stars. We’d only play one game a week, but we practiced so much.

I got hurt in Italy and I played decently, but I realized that my game wasn’t a good fit for overseas play. I think it’s good for guys who you can just give the ball to and have them go score. A lot of the Americans who do well overseas and make a lot of money over there are the ones who can go score 20-to-25 points a game. But it wasn’t a great fit for me since I’m more of a versatile guy who can do a lot of different things. Going overseas, for me, was because of the lockout and because I wanted to make sure I had some money. That gave me a little nest-egg so that I could continue playing in the D-League, if necessary, for another two to three years and chase my NBA dream.

I’d imagine that playing on so many 10-days and getting cut over and over would get frustrating. Was there a low point for you?

GT: My most stressful time was after the NBA lockout. I came back and was playing with the Reno Bighorns in 2012. We had just played two games in Los Angeles and the second game was a double-overtime game, so I had played about 45-to-50 minutes in that game. The next day, we went to LAX and we were about to fly to Reno. Well, I got a call from the Washington Wizards. It was December 17, I remember it like it was yesterday. Washington told me they wanted to bring me in for a workout. Now, I had been in a few workouts, but all of the teams that had signed me – Houston, Sacramento, San Antonio – just signed me right to a 10-day; they had never worked me out. I went to Phoenix for a workout once and they didn’t sign me. So Washington called and asked if I could stay at LAX and fly to Washington. But I was already on the plane with my team, so [Wizards senior vice president of basketball operations] Tommy Sheppard told me to fly back to Reno and then they’d fly me out later on. So I get to Reno after our double-overtime game, they flew me back to LAX that night and then I got to a red-eye flight to DC. Then, I landed that morning, tried to get a little nap in and then worked out that day. They had told me to bring a big bag because they said they were likely going to sign whoever they liked at the workout.

The workout was me against Chris Quinn, who was actually the guy who I got cut for in San Antonio. He’s an assistant coach for the Miami Heat now, but he’s who got the roster spot over me on the Spurs. Well, now we’re working out against each other for Washington. After the workout, Coach [Randy] Wittman comes down and says, “Well, we’re going to stand pat for now. We aren’t going to make a move yet, but we’ll stay in touch with your agents.” At this point, I had been on six teams. I had just taken all of these flights after a double-overtime game. I had this big bag with me. And it’s all for nothing; I have to fly back to Reno. At that point, I was a little bit down. Chris and I were both thinking, “What was this all about? Come on.” I was pretty upset. I played two games in the D-League and, really, I didn’t play well.

Well, I went home for Christmas break and had a little duffel bag with me. I was just going to surprise my family for Christmas. On December 23, I get a call from Tommy Sheppard telling me that they want me to bring me in. So I left straight from Baton Rouge and didn’t have much stuff with me, just my small bag. The entire season, I never got my bags or stuff! Because with D-League teams, they spend such little money, they didn’t want to pay to ship my two suitcases out to DC. They asked me if I could send them money so that they could ship the bags. That’s just how it is in the D-League. That was probably the most interesting signing I had. And that actually wasn’t a 10-day deal, it was a non-guaranteed contract because it was before the point that teams could sign 10-day contracts. But yeah, it gets exhausting at a point. At first, I was going on adrenaline because I was living my dream, especially that first year. But after that Washington workout, when they didn’t sign Chris or I, that was the point where I remember thinking, “Okay, man, come on now. When am I going to get my break?”

That was your low point, but it actually ended up being your big break.

GT: Yeah, it’s funny because that’s what led to my big break. A lot of people don’t know this, but earlier that year I had been in training camp with Miami and I played well. People thought I should’ve made the team, but they cut me. But afterward, Coach [Erik] Spoelstra told me that he really liked me and hoped to get me back and that it was just a numbers game. When Washington offered me that contract, Miami came calling and said they wanted me too.

So I had to choose between the defending champions and Washington, who had just cut Jannero Pargo and Shaun Livingston earlier that year so it was kind of a revolving door of guards. But I knew that in Washington I’d actually have a chance to play. In Miami, I figured I’d go there, not play and be expendable. If they had an opportunity to make another blockbuster move or something, of course they’re going to let go of the guy who they had just signed to a non-guaranteed contract. I talked to Coach Spoelstra and Coach [David] Fizdale, and I told them that I gave Washington my word that I’d sign there and I knew I had a chance to play there, so I was betting on myself. And it actually worked out for me, man! Shelvin Mack and I went there and I played pretty well. They cut Shelvin when the guaranteed date came, and the rest is history.

It definitely worked out! What was that moment like when you realized you had a guaranteed deal and some security?

GT: Honestly, when Coach Wittman brought me in that January of 2013 and my contract was guaranteed, I let out a sigh of relief. I remember thinking, “I have a guaranteed contract. I’m going to be on this team for the rest of the season.” That was big for me. Then, that summer, I signed my first one-year, guaranteed deal with Washington and I let out another sigh of relief. Yeah, it was for the minimum. Yeah, it was one year. But I knew where I was going to be for the season and, for the first time, it really felt like I made it. I remember thinking, “I finally made it.”

How much sweeter was it to sign a multi-year contract, first with Washington and then with Sacramento, after everything you had been through?

GT: It’s that much sweeter. I really can’t put it into words. I signed a one-year deal with Washington and that felt amazing. Then, after that, I signed a two-year deal with Washington and had a player option for the second year, so I finally had some security. Then, signing the three-year deal with Sacramento at a lot more than minimum, it was a blessing. I was ecstatic. I thanked my agent. And it really was so much sweeter because I had worked so hard and been through so much. A lot of people have no idea what I went through. Every time I tell my story to people, like my younger teammates, they’re like, “Damn! You went through all of that?! You played in Italy?! You got cut how many times?!”

When I signed my three-year deal, I thought back to everything I had been through. And not only is it a three-year deal, I have a player option in the final year so I get to choose what to do in that third year. I think it’s just a testament to hard work and perseverance. And it is that much sweeter. It makes me just want to continue to stay humble and continue to work hard.

You played for so many different coaches, learned so many different systems and teamed up with so many different players. Looking back, how did those experiences help you as a player?

GT: My experiences early on definitely helped me as a player. There’s no question, it helped me a lot. First and foremost, I was able to gain so many relationships with the people I came into contact with, whether it was general managers, coaches or other front-office people. It also taught me different styles of coaching and different styles of play. It also allowed me to understand who I was as a player – what my best attributes were offensively and what systems were the best fit for me – so when I did become a free agent, I was able to choose a team that fit my style better.

It also taught me how to interact with different types of players. I dealt with so many different types of personalities, so I know how to deal with every type of player now. I’ve basically played with every type of personality. I played with everyone from Tim Duncan to Tony Parker to Manu Ginobili to Stephen Jackson to Tyrus Thomas to Brandon Jennings to Larry Sanders. I played with a ton of different guys. I realized that everybody is different, but everybody can produce and do things in their own right. And I pride myself on being a guy who gets along with everybody – that’s just the way I am. Bouncing around from locker room to locker room definitely helped me when it came to building relationships and learning how to be a better teammate.

Are you close with other players who have had a similar journey as you? In my recent piece on 10-day contracts, CJ Watson told me he always roots for the fringe players who had to grind to make a roster. Do you feel the same way?

GT: No question. It’s like a fraternity. The guys who have been through that, the 10-day guys, we run in the same circles. You run into each other, like I did with Chris Quinn when he beat me out in San Antonio and then I worked out against him in Washington. Chris and I are friends. Hassan Whiteside and I were in Miami the year after the lockout. It was during the summer at a veteran camp, working out to see who they were going to bring to training camp. They didn’t bring Hassan to training camp that year, so I assume that motivated him even more. Matt Barnes and I have bonded over it, that D-League grind and 10-day grind. Langston Galloway is a good friend of mine; we’re both from Baton Rouge, we work out at the same place in the offseason and we have the same strength and conditioning coach. When he was coming out of Saint Joseph’s, I actually gave him advice. He came to me and one of my former college teammates who has played overseas for his entire career. He asked us, “What should I do? Should I go overseas and get this guaranteed money, or should I go to the D-League and try to get called up?” I was a D-League success story, so he wanted my opinion. I told him, “With the type of guy you are and with New York telling you that they like you and with them allocating you to their D-League team, I would go the D-League route. You don’t have a family to take care of right now, so give it a shot.” He did it, he got called up on the first day teams were allowed to sign 10-day contracts and he’s been in the league ever since.

I run in the same circles as a lot of these guys and there’s just a certain level of respect we have for each other because we’ve been through the same things. It’s sort of the same with undrafted players. Like Kent Bazemore and I played Summer League together and there’s just mutual respect there when you’ve done it the hard way. It’s sweeter this way – when you went undrafted, when you played in the D-League, when you played on 10-day contracts, not knowing if you’re going to be on the team in a few days. That is a tough situation to be in and I have nothing but respect for the guys who have been through it because I know what it took for them to make it. Until you go through it, you really don’t know what it’s like.

You mentioned the advice you gave to Langston. What general advice would you give to a young player who is on a 10-day contract and battling for a roster spot?

GT: My advice would be just continue to believe. Continue to believe. I actually gave somebody advice at one point. I would tell any young guy to just believe in yourself, play your game and just focus on basketball rather than worrying about anything else. If you do things the right way and you’re supposed to be in this league, you’ll make it to the league and stay.

For more on life as a fringe NBA player, HoopsHype recently talked to CJ Watson, Derrick Williams, Xavier Silas and Quinn Cook about their experiences on 10-day contracts.

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