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Garrett Temple on the Sacramento Kings, Free Agency and More
After years of playing on minimum contracts, being waived and bouncing around from team to team, Garrett Temple finally has some job security and a lucrative NBA contract. The 30-year-old recently signed a three-year, $24 million deal with the Sacramento Kings.
Temple’s contract will pay him $8,000,000 each season (with a player option for the final year), which is more than double what he earned over his first six years in the NBA combined.
When fans think of the NBA lifestyle, they typically imagine enormous mansions, ridiculous cars and full bank accounts. This is understandable, especially at a time like this when NBA teams are handing out some of the largest contracts in league history. While some players live a luxurious lifestyle and most are very comfortable (if they manage their money well), there are plenty of players who make significantly less than you would expect.
In the NBA D-League last season, salaries ranged from $13,000 to $25,000. And the $25,000 base salary is for the star players – many individuals earn significantly less.
Even if a player gets called up on a 10-day contract, their financial concerns don’t suddenly vanish. A 10-day contract pays 170th of a player’s designated minimum contract (based on their years of NBA experience). So, for example, an undrafted rookie on a 10-day contract will earn $31,969. While that’s obviously a lot of money for “10 days of work,” the player actually spent the entire year making sacrifices and working to get that opportunity.
This is why many players simply choose to go overseas and sign a seven-figure contract with an international team. Yes, they have to give up their NBA dream, but it’s much easier to support themselves (and their family) and comes with far more certainty.
Which brings us back to Temple, who is finally being rewarded after years of enduring the stress that comes with chasing an NBA dream. Temple had to grind extremely hard to get to where he is today.
After going undrafted in 2009, he started his professional basketball career in the D-League. Then, Temple proceeded to play for many different teams. Over the last six years, he had regular-season stints with six different NBA franchises (Houston, Sacramento, San Antonio, Milwaukee, Charlotte and Washington) and three different D-League teams (Rio Grande Valley, Erie and Reno). He also spent a season in Italy back in 2011. This doesn’t even include the teams he tried out for and didn’t make, like when he was the final training-camp cut by Miami in 2012.
He knows all too well that professional basketball is a business and has faced rejection many times, but he never gave up on making it in the league.
Finally, in recent years, Temple stuck with the Wizards and became a key player for them. In mid-December of last year, Temple became a starter when Bradley Beal was injured. He took full advantage of the opportunity, leading Washington to three straight victories over the Charlotte Hornets, Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies. He totaled 64 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and four steals in the three contests while shooting 53.5 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from three.
Temple averaged 7.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and one steal on the season, and got 43 starts under his belt. Still, he was on a minimum contract and his future was up in the air due to his looming unrestricted free agency.
However, this time around, not having a contract was great for Temple because NBA talent evaluators were noticing his production and how positive things typically happened when he was on the court. They saw that he hustled extremely hard, did the dirty work, made smart plays and defended the perimeter very well.
It’s no coincidence that the Wizards’ best plus-minus lineup from the 2015-16 season featured Temple, as did the two highest-scoring lineups they rolled out last year. Also, Temple led the Wizards in Defensive Rating (allowing 101 points per 100 possessions) and the team’s defense was noticeably worse when he was off the court (allowing 106.1 points per 100 possessions).
Temple ranked 11th among all shooting guards in Defensive Real Plus-Minus, which estimates a player’s on-court defensive impact. The metric Real Plus-Minus Wins estimates how many victories a player contributed to their team’s win total, and Temple’s RPM Wins for last season was 3.54 (tying him with Andrew Wiggins and putting him ahead of All-Star Dwyane Wade among others).
Suddenly, Temple was highly coveted. After being passed over time and time again throughout his career, he received interest from nearly a third of the NBA after free agency got underway on July 1. In addition to the Kings and Wizards, the Boston Celtics, New Orleans Pelicans, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Brooklyn Nets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets also expressed some level of interest in Temple’s services.
And not only is he popular among executives these days, Temple is respected by his peers.
“Garrett was a great teammate and a good friend in Washington,” said Houston Rockets big man Nene, who played with Temple in Washington. “He worked extremely hard every day and he was always a positive influence on all of us. I’m very happy to see how much he has accomplished. He deserves everything that is happening for him and he is the perfect example of hard work paying off.”
“Garrett is someone who has improved every year he has been in the league and is quietly one of the best perimeter defenders whom no one talks about,” Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said. “This could be a true breakout year for him.”
The Kings are hoping that’s the case, banking on the belief that Temple’s best basketball is still ahead of him and he just needs an opportunity to showcase his complete skill set.
Basketball Insiders recently caught up with Temple to discuss his free agency decision, why he decided to join the Kings, how Sacramento is trying to change their culture and much more.
Alex Kennedy: What was it like going through free agency? You received a lot of interest from teams. I know some players like free agency and some hate it. What did you think of the process?
Garrett Temple: “Well this was my first time going through the process and having more than one or two teams actually interested, so that was different. I had a new agent this time – this is my first year with [Mark] Bartelstein. All of those things made it a little… I don’t want to say nerve-wracking, but I was anxious. It’s not like I didn’t know if I would be in the NBA or not, it was just a matter of figuring out the numbers and what team. It was just a very anxious time for me, I had nerves, but I was very excited as well. I soaked it all in.”
Kennedy: What’s it like going from being a guy who has bounced around the NBA and faced a lot of rejection to having a ton of teams call you and being highly coveted? How nice is it knowing that you have some stability now?
Temple: “Yeah, it’s definitely nice to know that! Even in Washington, my first year was obviously a non-guaranteed deal until January. Then, I signed a one-year deal, so I was basically playing for a new contract again. Then, I signed a two-year deal, which was good. But I’ve been on 10-day contracts here and 10-day contracts there, not knowing where I’d be next. It was really fulfilling to have teams call me on the first night of free agency. And that was part of the reason why I chose Sacramento. One or two other teams actually called, but the Kings had all of the brass call that first night: Vlade [Divac], Ken Catanella, Coach [Dave] Joerger. I got the chance to talk to all of them on the first night and they explained to me how I’d fit with their team and what they saw me doing. It feels great to have some job security, and I’ve been playing for the minimum for my whole career so to get paid a little more is obviously a plus as well.”
Kennedy: What role did they describe to you? How do they envision you fitting in?
Temple: “First and foremost, Coach Joerger just told me how much he likes my versatility and how important that is in today’s NBA since [teams want] guys that can guard multiple positions. I feel like I can guard one through three, for sure, and I can even guard some fours with the way the league is these days. That’s valuable. He also said he enjoyed what I was able to do in terms of improving on the offensive end this year. It probably helped that I had 20 points against Memphis [and Coach Joerger] and 23 points against Sacramento this past year (laughs). They want me to play the one, two and three. They like my leadership abilities. He said, ‘I’ve seen you play and from what I’m hearing, you’re a great locker room guy too – one of the best in the league.’ Obviously the culture here is something that needs to be put back on the right track. You see the guys that we’ve signed: Arron Afflalo, good veteran guy; Matt Barnes, good veteran guy; Anthony Tolliver, good veteran guy. We’re guys who are going to try to come in here and help. We all approach the game a certain way and hopefully we can teach that to the young guys. They were adamant that they envision me being an integral part of the team and that was obviously great to hear, especially with my background. Being valued as a guy who can produce and will be relied on every night is something that I’ve been waiting for a long time.”
Kennedy: That was my next question for you. You’ve shown what you can do when given minutes and now it seems like your role is about to significantly expand. Do you expect this to be a breakout, career-year for you?
Temple: “I think so. I think the opportunity is there. Like I said, Coach Joerger believes in my abilities and that I can produce, so I’ll be on the court a good amount this year. I really plan on working on my game this summer, working on the aspects of my game that need to improve. I’ll be playing some point guard this year, and obviously playing the two and the three as well. But I’m working on my decision-making coming off of ball screens. People don’t realize that I’m a pretty good decision-maker and that I played point guard a lot growing up. I played point guard my whole high school career and a lot in college. The last couple of years I’ve been playing on the wing more, but I’m going to show people that I’m a versatile guy that can play the one, two and three.”
Kennedy: You played in Sacramento earlier in your career. Fair or not, there’s this perception that the Kings are dysfunctional and that players don’t want to be there. You chose to go back there and, like you said, they are trying to bring in veterans to change the culture. But what do you make of that perception? Is it overstated that players don’t want to be in Sacramento?
Temple: “Actually, my first year here was my rookie year and I was on a 10-day contract. I had come here from Houston. They offered me a contract so instead of going back to the D-League, I would go to Sacramento. Of course [I said yes]. Then, I had a choice between Sacramento and San Antonio, and I decided to leave to go to San Antonio. Because, obviously, San Antonio was San Antonio. It was 2010. But honestly, the [Kings] franchise wasn’t in a great place. The new ownership, the new front office and obviously Coach Joerger are understanding what it’s going to take to build a team and they know it starts with the culture of the team first. You have to have the right culture, from the equipment manager all the way up to the owner. From the things they’ve told me, they’re on board and willing to make this a culture where people want to come play and want to come win. And I’m very happy to be a part of the start of that.”
Kennedy: Let’s talk about the expectations for this team. DeMarcus Cousins is one of the best centers in the NBA, if not the best, and…
Temple: “He’s the best center in the NBA.”
Kennedy: Alright, well let’s start there. How excited are you to play with DeMarcus?
Temple: “I’m excited. I’m excited, man. I’m excited for him to be on my side instead of having to game-plan against him. He’s a guy who is just so talented and he’s been able to add the three-point shot to his arsenal as well.
“As far as expectations, I envision us playing a more up-tempo game with the pieces that we have, and I see us being able to win a lot more games than people think. Our division has obviously gotten competitive with a certain move (laughs, referring to the Warriors signing Kevin Durant to Golden State), but I envision us being able to win games with the veterans we’ve brought in plus the guys already on the team like DeMarcus, Rudy [Gay], D.C. [Darren Collison] and Kosta Koufos, who is a great post player who can score and do a lot of things. I think we have a chance to push for a playoff spot, man. That’s definitely going to be the goal.”
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