Garrett Temple noticed second-year big man Willie Cauley-Stein not paying attention to detail. In particular, he noticed Cauley-Stein not doing what the game plan called for in terms of the pick and roll. The typically calm and collected Temple quickly barked out at him following a Knicks made basket in Friday's loss.
When the veteran guard sees ways that the Kings can improve he isn't shy about saying so. Along with this characteristic comes a knack for defense, making smart basketball decisions and putting the team before his stat line.
Essentially, you get the sense that if the Kings had a roster full of guys with Temple’s outlook on the game, things may be a little different right now.
Temple’s fundamentally sound approach to basketball goes back to his pre-NBA days when his coaches were adamant about him being a defender. He isn’t huge offensive weapon, but has always played with guys who had a lot of offensive talent so he didn’t need to score, which allowed him to focus on other aspects of the game. In high school, and in college at LSU, he played alongside his good friend Glen “Big Baby” Davis and spent a lot of his time passing the ball to him. He remembers what his coach told him during his stint in the D League: If you are in the D League you don’t get called up to be a scorer, you get called up to do little things such as defending, shooting open shots and understanding what to do offensively and defensively.
The stats don’t jump off the page – he’s averaging 5.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1 steal per game this season. What stands out is his determination on defense, not taking bad shots, his ability to play extended minutes without turning the ball over and his overall effort.
He also helps the team’s best scorers (DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay) do what they do.
“He’s a smart basketball player, extremely smart basketball player, plays hard, great defender and he’s very vocal,” Gay said.
When you watch him play you can’t help but be reminded of Doug Christie, who approached the game in a similar way - deferring to the scorers and focusing on the little ways to help the team. In fact, Temple and Christie are both listed at 6’6’’ and around 200 pounds. Temple, who grew up a Scottie Pippen fan, takes the Christie comparison as quite the compliment and also admits, with a laugh, that he is probably only 6’5’’ while Christie is 6’6’’ “and a half.” He doesn’t have Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic and Mike Bibby around him though.
On this current Kings squad, he is serving as a bench player, helping to provide some stability to the second unit.
“He likes what I’m doing off the bench, he likes my role,” Temple said of head coach Dave Joerger.
He likens this 8-15 start to the Kings season, although it isn’t quite as bad, to his arrival in Washington with the Wizards in 2012-13.
“It was maybe even worse than this,” Temple said of that Wizards squad that only had four wins through December. “We continued to get better, but I think a big thing was having leadership. Understanding that you have to take steps to get to a certain level and it starts with accountability is the biggest thing. Understanding that every practice counts, every detail, whether it be the gameplay defensively, offensively, everything counts, every possession.”
Following a loss to the San Antonio Spurs earlier this season a few of the players on the Kings mentioned the team was not paying attention in shoot arounds.
“I definitely have seen that,” Temple said. “We’ve done better as of late in terms of being more focused during shoot around ... This is every team honestly, that hasn’t won. You have to build habits understanding that we have to execute this play exactly right ... We have to do the game plan defensively every time down, not just 8 out of 10 because those two times that we don’t execute they might get threes.”
The Kings did lose 104-84 to the Utah Jazz on Saturday, but Temple has said he is pleased that the Kings have been competing as of late.
“We’re really competing, I think that’s one thing that you can always tip your hat to,” Temple said. “Eventually, if we do the things I am talking about doing, with this effort, we’ll get some wins.”
If the Kings don’t do the things Temple is talking about sooner rather than later, Joerger may need consider moving him to the starting lineup.