If this indeed is the possible end to a long and winding journey through the NBA, former University High and LSU standout Garrett Temple couldn’t think of a better conclusion.
After playing for 10 different teams covering 11 years, the 35-year-old Temple agreed Monday to a free agent deal to join the New Orleans Pelicans. He was part of a trade that brought him from Chicago to New Orleans where he signed a three-year contract with two years guaranteed at $5 million per season.
“Storybook,” Temple said during an interview Tuesday with ESPN 104.5-FM in Baton Rouge. “Going into my 12th year and to have a three-year deal with two years guaranteed in my home state, you couldn’t write it any better than this.”
Temple sees himself as a survivor in the league. He was an undrafted free agent coming out of LSU after setting the school career record for minutes played and helping the Tigers reach a Final Four in 2006.
He’s been able to apply his prowess on the defensive end and parlayed a selfless brand of basketball into a career in which he’s played for Houston, Sacramento (twice), San Antonio, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Washington, Memphis, L.A. Clippers, Brooklyn and Chicago.
Temple has played in 632 games in the NBA (starting 272) and has averaged 6.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 21.7 minutes. His career shooting percentages are 40.4 for field goals, 34.6 for 3-pointers and 74.3 for free throws.
If Temple plays the length of his Pels’ contract, he’d have 14 NBA seasons which would be second most ever for a former LSU player behind Shaquille O’ Neal’s 19 seasons with six teams,
“It’s great to be home and not have to travel home for Christmas or travel home for Thanksgiving,” Temple said of his arrival in New Orleans.
This past season, Temple averaged 7.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists for the Bulls, which finished with a 31-41 record. He started in 25 of 56 games, shooting 41.6 percent from the field, 80 percent from the free throw line and had 16 double-figuring scoring games, highlighted by a season-high 21 in a 117-101 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
In his team’s two wins over New Orleans, Temple averaged 9 points, 4 rebounds and 5.5 assists.
“I knew a few teams were interested, I had some interest in teams,” Temple said. “Every time I hear New Orleans is interested, I have an inkling, a little hope that something could materialize to where it’s the fit that I want to go to. Me being able to get a three-year deal to come back home basically was amazing. I was ecstatic about it.”
Temple has already embraced his role to come into an overall youthful New Orleans franchise and provide leadership and a steady hand for a team undergoing a coaching change to first-year head coach Willie Green.
Because of the length of his career, Temple has already played against Green. He looks forward to playing for him after the Pelicans were 31-41 and out of the playoff picture last season.
Temple will also be reunited in New Orleans with former LSU teammate Darnell Lazare, who has been an assistant coach with the Pelicans in charge of player development.
“I talked to the front office, they’re expecting me to bring my veteran leadership, my experience,” Temple said. “That’s something I’ve been able to bring to the last two or three teams I’ve been on, whether it was Brooklyn or Chicago.
“I’m here for coach Green, I played against him,” Temple said. “I’m excited to be here at his first stop as a head coach. I can see myself being a guy that can be leaned upon by the coaching staff, but mostly by the players as that veteran leader.”
New Orleans has been a franchise with an aggressive approach this offseason, trying to find the right pieces for Green to build around his centerpiece in forward Zion Williamson. The former Duke standout averaged 27 points and 7.2 rebounds in his second season with the team and serves as a reason of optimism why players such as Temple see a bright future for the Pelicans.
“His quickness, his explosiveness,” Temple said of Williamson’s attributes. “His ability to get to where he wants no matter who is there. That’s a skill set not many people have in the NBA. To have body control in the air when he finishes is second to none. I’m excited about it. He creates mismatches. He creates situations where double teams need to happen. It makes life easier for the other guys.”