Feel free to skip over the next paragraph. It’s an incredibly long and tedious list of all the teams that Washington Wizards swingman Garrett Temple has played for over the course of his professional career. But just know that compared to a similar paragraph (or short sentence, rather) composed for someone like, say, Kobe Bryant, the sheer girth of this list – provided verbatim from Temple’s own memory – illustrates just how tough it was for the 29-year-old shooter to find a landing spot in the NBA.
“I started in the D-League (in 2009) with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers,” Temple told Basketball Insiders, “Then I went to the Houston Rockets to the Sacramento Kings to the San Antonio Spurs. I started with San Antonio my second year, then it was back to the Rio Grande Vipers, then I was traded to the Erie Bayhawks, called up by the Milwaukee Bucks, sent back down to Erie, called up by Charlotte, and I finished that year in Charlotte. Then the lockout happened and I went to the Novipiu Casale in Italy. After the lockout I went to training camp with Miami, got cut, then ended up back in the D-League with the Reno Bighorns. I was there for nine games, and then I got called up by the Washington Wizards. I’ve been here ever since.”
That was 2012, and it came following a preseason where Temple truly believed he had finally found his NBA home. He wasn’t with the Wizards at that point, though. He was a member of the Miami HEAT in a LeBron James year, certainly something for any aspiring ball player to get excited about.
But despite a strong showing with the HEAT in the preseason, Temple did not make the team. Even over three years later, he remembers the devastation of missing out on what he truly thought at the time was his big chance.
“Getting cut by Miami in training camp was the most disappointing moment of my career because I had just played so well,” Temple said. “It was obvious honestly to everyone, even in the organization I heard later on, that I should have been on that team, but they stayed loyal to a guy that had been on the team the year before.”
That, unfortunately, is the business of basketball and Temple understood that even then.
“It was just a numbers game,” he admitted. “They really wanted to keep me, but they didn’t want to pay a guaranteed guy to leave to make room for me.”
Still, just because he understood that at age 26 after bouncing around all over the world, it didn’t make it any easier for him. That Miami cut went deep.
“It was so disheartening because I had just come from Italy and I thought I was lost and forgotten, only to get right on the cusp of making the team and then get cut,” Temple said. “Everything happens for a reason, though. I’m a true believer of that, and everything worked out for me.”
It did, obviously, because only a couple of months later Temple was granted the opportunity that would change his career.
“[Washington] called me to work on out on the 17th of December in 2012 and I went back home because they didn’t sign me,” he recalled. “Then right before Christmas, they called me and told me they were going to sign me up.
“And that showed how much [the HEAT] wanted me because when Washington came after me, Miami reached out and was like, ‘Well, we want you to come back here.’ But it was a nah-you-had-your-chance type of thing with them. Washington was the one that gave me the opportunity, so I wanted to be loyal to them. Everything happens for a reason, and I’ve been very happy here.”
This season, Temple has made friends with rookie Jarell Eddie, a talented kid whose journey hasn’t been quite so arduous but who only recently saw his contract guaranteed. Leading up that moment, though, Temple shared with him plenty of insight about what to expect in this league in terms of security and opportunities.
“Jarell just became guaranteed a couple of weeks ago, and I know exactly what he’s going through because it’s the exact same thing that happened to me,” Temple said. “I always tell him, it’s a journey. Guys like us, it’s a little sweeter when we finally make it because we’ve been through so much to get here.”
And Temple couldn’t help but reiterate just how much he has appreciated his own opportunity with the Wizards these last three years.
“It has meant the world to me,” Temple said. “For me to actually get that first real contract here in Washington, especially that first guaranteed deal after an offseason, that was everything to me.”
The gamble has paid off for Washington too, as Temple has broken out this season and even started several games while Bradley Beal was out with a shoulder injury. During that time, Temple scored 20 points in a game for the first time in his NBA career. And then he did it three more times in the month of December alone.
It’s an exciting time for a player in the prime of his career, but more than anything he’s just glad to have found some consistency and familiarity in his career as a professional basketball player.
“I’m comfortable in my role, I understand exactly what Coach [Randy Wittman] wants me from and I’m confident in myself and my faith,” he said. “That’s made all the difference for me.”
Hopefully his list of former employers doesn’t have to grow too much longer. His résumé doesn’t have any more room.
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