Sacramento Kings forward Skal Labissiere has surprised many fans with his surge since the All-Star break, but he is still trying to find ways to correct mistakes and admittedly, is still getting used to the speed of the NBA.
On a team in transition, the 6’11’’ forward has some veterans around him to help explain all of this to him, especially Garrett Temple, who has taken him under his wings.
“I’m getting more comfortable out there … the game still has to slow down for me, I’m still learning, it’s the first year,” Labissiere said. “Whenever something happens [Temple is] trying to explain to me why this happened, what could happen better. Just trying to be a good vet, really been in my ear. He’s been really good this year with me. He’s like a coach out there really so it’s always good to have somebody like that on the court.”
Temple points out that he isn’t just dishing out advice to Labisierre all the time, the rookie seeks it out.
“He’s made it a point to sit next to me and ask me questions,” Temple said. “He asks me what I see on the court and I really try to explain to him situations when we’re both on the bench if I see a problem with the person at his position, a mistake they made or things of that nature, I try to tell him what we want to happen in that situation and he’s done a great job, he’s a sponge, man. He soaks everything up and tries to apply it every time he gets on the court.”
Since the Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, the veterans on the Kings have tried to stay focused on the chance at the 8th seed. The rotation is still a work in progress for head coach Dave Joerger though and an eight-game losing streak has now set in. Temple, who said he came to Sacramento to help build a culture and make a run at the playoffs, tries to stay positive and recognizes the importance of “teaching winning” to the young players.
“You want to focus on winning even more because … you can build a culture of professionalism and having good character and things of that nature, but to build a culture of winning you have to teach winning habits and you actually have to win games and explain to guys why it’s important to win games,” Temple said. “People can be pros and stuff as much as they want. If you don’t win then none of it matters.”
Despite the wins not coming as of late, Labissiere is benefitting from being around a pro like Temple, and the veteran sees a bright future for the rookie.
“He’s a smart guy, he’s a pretty intelligent guy. He knows to ask questions and to listen. He’s very inquisitive so I think his basketball IQ is going to rise tremedously in the next year and half, two years,” he said.
Temple also shared his thoughts on the Kings other rookie, Buddy Hield.
“Just trying to teach him little nuances of the game,” Temple said. “In college, maybe he chased the ball a lot and they were looking for him. In this game, you being on the weak side during the pick and roll is much better than you being on the strong side in terms of you being able to get the ball and get shots up. So just trying to let him know to let the game come to him as much as he can and when he needs to be aggressive be aggressive, but other than that just let the game come to him on the offensive end. “
Temple continues to provide fundamentally sound basketball on the floor, specifically on the defensive end. He’s putting up some of the best numbers of his career all while helping the rookies along the way.