The glue guy.
That’s Garrett Temple’s answer when asked to describe his basketball career that started as a recruiting afterthought for state champ University High, as a defensive stopper for LSU’s 2006 Final Four team and now as an undrafted free agent whose 10-year NBA career is tied for the fourth longest of any former Tigers’ star.
You read that correctly.
A 6-5, 195-pound guard who has never finished a college or pro season averaging scoring in double figures, has made $28,688,445 playing for nine different NBA teams.
As a glue guy.
Because Temple learned, pardon the pun, how to stick on NBA rosters ahead of more highly touted players.
“I’ve tried to do whatever I could and more to make a team,” said Temple, who at age 33, is in the midst of the best season of his NBA career in his first year with the Brooklyn Nets. “I’ve been able to stick. I’ve seen players who I know who may have more talent than me who haven’t done that and not stick.
“The ones that stay in the league the longest and have the best careers are straight up pros. They do all the little things.”
For as many high-priced superstars as there are in the NBA, the demand is just as high for glue guys because they are low maintenance and high efficiency.
In other words, they aren’t pain-in-the-patootie divas who think they should play more minutes or be the offensive focal point.
Glue guys understand, accept and relish their roles. They are happy to give coaches whatever they need in games whenever it’s required.
It’s why a player like Temple has been a godsend to just about every NBA coach who has had him on their roster, including the best in the business such as San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Doc Rivers.
“He’s a vet, knows how to play, so you just like him on your team,” Rivers said. “He’s one of the good guys in the league.”
Knowing how to play and being a good guy? It’s as simple as that?
Against all odds
If former LSU coach John Brady put odds on which of the players on his ’06 Final Four team would have the longest pro career, he doesn’t mind admitting Temple would be somewhere down the line.
“That season we had Big Baby Davis who was the SEC Player of the Year,” Brady said. “We had Tyrus Thomas who was SEC Defensive Player of the Year. We had Darrel Mitchell, who was first-team All-SEC and who made three-game winning shots. We had Tasmin Mitchell, who was a true freshman who averaged in double figures. And then we had Garrett.”
Davis and Thomas played nine NBA seasons each for three teams each with Davis winning an NBA title ring with the Boston Celtics. The Mitchells, not related, never played a minute in the NBA but made nice livings playing overseas.
So why is Temple, the second basketball-playing son of LSU basketball icon Collis Temple Jr., the last man standing from that ’06 Final Four starting five?
“It’s his character, his unselfishness to do whatever it takes to help his team win,” Brady said.
For instance, LSU would have never gotten to the Final Four if Temple, a mere redshirt freshman, hadn’t held national college Player of the Year J.J. Redick to 3-of-18 shooting and just 11 points in the Tigers’ 62-54 regional semifinal win over top-seeded Duke.
“That win changed a lot of our lives that night, including Garrett’s,” Temple said.
Temple’s length and his defensive versatility to guard different positions is what got him an invite to play for the Houston Rockets’ summer league after his senior season when he wasn’t taken in the 2009 NBA draft.
Temple spent the first three years of his professional career as a basketball vagabond, just wanting to start what he finished.
His first two seasons he played for five NBA teams, two D-League franchises and signed nine 10-day contracts.
He got a sweet taste of the NBA life of chartered flights, five-star hotels, hefty daily road trip per diems of $125 or more, the high-tech sparkling arenas in major metropolitan areas and the respect that comes with playing with the most gifted players in the best basketball league in the planet.
He also had to swallow his anonymity of his five D-League stints with three teams anchored in such outposts as Edinburg, Texas, Erie, Pa., and Reno, Nevada, traveling on commercial flights for road trips with daily diems of $50, playing with mixed desperation and hope in an eclectic mix of small, relatively new arenas along with almost 70-year old relics.
What Temple went through his initial couple of years out of LSU was a true test of his determination and his suitcase.
At one point in his rookie season in 2009-10 when he signed a 10-day contract with Sacramento after playing with Houston on two 10-day contracts, his first game with Sacramento after he left Houston was against Houston.
“It was crazy,” Temple said. “Then I was with Sacramento just long enough to have trainers and managers wash my clothes for me because I was living out of the suitcase I had.”
Good times, huh?
But then he signed with the San Antonio Spurs for the last month of the regular season, found himself getting his first NBA start against the Sacramento team he just left (how did that keep happening) and played alongside three likely Hall of Famers Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili while being directed by Popovich, the winningest coach in NBA history.
It was Temple’s time with Spurs and the following year when he played the last month of the regular season with the Charlotte Bobcats that fueled his belief that one day he would stick in the NBA for good.
The only time his indomitable spirit waned came two seasons later after he played in Italy in 2011-12 when the NBA players went on strike for the first 61 days of the season.
Temple played in two NBA summer leagues for Oklahoma City and Cleveland prior to the 2012-13 season. The Miami Heat signed Temple and by all accounts he had a training camp that should have earned him a spot on a roster that included LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen.
But when he got cut and a player or two he had outplayed had been kept on the Heat roster because of guaranteed contracts, he had a flash of disillusionment.
When re-signed with the Erie Bayhawks of the G-League and then was immediately traded to the Reno Bighorns, Temple needed some pep talks from his Dad to keep his dauber from dragging in the dirt.
The Merriest Christmas
And then it happened.
Just before Christmas 2012, the Washington Wizards, mired in a 3-23 start, called Temple. They wanted him to sign a non-guaranteed contract.
When Temple was cut by the Heat a few months earlier, Miami coach Eric Spoelstra asked Temple to call him if any NBA team eventually made an offer.
So, when the Wizards called Temple, Temple called Spoelstra who then also offered to sign Temple.
Temple’s choices were a losing team where playing time would be plentiful or with the defending NBA champions in which he would mostly be practice fodder.
Temple, much to Spoelstra’s surprise, chose the Wizards. The transaction was announced on Christmas Day. It was a move Temple never regretted despite the fact he would have won an NBA ring on a Heat team that repeated as league champs.
“I wanted to show teams I could play,” Temple said. “I didn’t want to sit on the bench.”
He knew he had made a decision that would benefit him long term, not the temporary high of one season and then back looking for a new team again.
Because at that point, after keeping his eyes and ears open and constantly asking questions on every team he played, his pro basketball education was well underway.
“I learned the business of the league early on,” he said. “There are a lot of guys who have been in the NBA five and six years who have never been cut or traded.
“When I got cut by the Bucks after playing under two 10-day contracts, (head coach) Scott Skiles told me why. They already had guys under contract and team ownership didn’t want to pay a non-guaranteed guy.”
At all his NBA playing stops, he studied organizations. What made some better than others? Why did San Antonio seem to be perennially ahead of the pack when it built a cohesive dominant franchise that now has won five NBA titles?
“I learned a lot about the Spurs organization, why they were so great, they are consistent because of the structure from the top to the bottom,” Temple said. “Everybody knows their role, and everybody plays their role to a T.”
Every coach Temple has played under, he has filed away a piece of their brilliance.
With the Rockets, he marveled how Rick Adelman ran the huddle during timeouts and the way he employed his playing rotation. At Charlotte playing under Paul Silas, Temple took note of the way Silas instilled confidence in his players.
Temple called Wizards coach Randy Wittman “probably the most prepared coach I’ve ever been around who understood how to make adjustments.”
And then there was Popovich and his future Spurs’ HOF trio of teammates.
“He’s one of the best, if not the best coach I’ve ever had,” Temple said. “He understands the game well, but his biggest things are he cares about his players and because of that he holds them accountable.
“The players allow him to do that and allow him to coach them because they know he cares. Having a relationship off the court matters and it bleeds into what happens on the court.
“A lot of time, you can’t coach stars like you coach everybody else. But Pop was the one guy I saw who was able to coach Tony, Tim and Manu harder than anybody else. Because he was able to do that, everybody else fell in line.”
The many layers
Temple’s inquisitive nature and thirst for knowledge have stretched beyond the boundaries of basketball, whether it’s understanding wise money management and investments or passionately but peacefully becoming a civil rights activist as was his dad Collis Jr. to an extent when he became LSU’s first African American basketball player in 1970.
Garrett has heard the numerous hardships that his dad and Garrett’s grandfather Collis Sr. faced trying to make their way in a segregated society.
Like his dad and grandfather, Garrett has not been afraid to get involved in potentially explosive racial issues, such as when he played in Sacramento about the time Sacramento police shot and killed Stephon Clark, a 23-year old African American standing in his grandmother’s backyard in March 2018.
“There are situations where I can give a voice to the voiceless,” Temple said. “I can use my platform to speak out on things that I think affect people in my community who don’t have the platform that I have.
“At the end of the day, you have to communicate before you can change things. I don’t think you can really change things when you are upset about something or when you’re arguing with people, and that argument is coming from a place of hate. It’s about expressing yourself in a way that the person you’re talking to can understand. It’s easier to get bees with honey than vinegar.
“You have to understand both sides to form an opinion.”
That’s why as racial tensions skyrocketed following the death of Clark, who was shot eight times with most of them in his back. Temple took it upon himself to open a dialogue with the Sacramento police leaders and officers.
“I wanted to know what police officers are thinking in situations like that,” Temple said. “If we can’t know what their mindset is, there’s no way for society to change that mindset.
“Then, you try to put yourself in that position to see if that’s a situation what would you do? They’re putting their lives on the line, so it comes with high responsibility. When they’re wrong, the cost of being wrong is taking someone’s life. That’s a very high cost. And in my opinion, in certain situations the repercussions should be severe.”
Temple’s desire to understand and mediate challenging situations has made him a natural as vice-president of the NBA Players Association.
“If we here at the PA could create the prototype member, it would be him,” Michele Roberts, the director of the National Basketball Players Association, told CBS Sports. “Garrett is perfect.”
Mark Bartelstein, Temple’s agent, describes him as “one of the best human beings I’ve ever come across in any walk of life, an absolutely elite person on every level who’s about the right things.”
It’s hard to find anyone Temple has played for who didn’t greatly appreciate him.
And it didn’t matter if it was for two consecutive day contracts like he had with the Milwaukee Bucks in February 2011, Temple’s second season of chasing his dream.
“He started picking up things instantly,” Bucks’ coach Skiles said. “We could tell right away, which was his reputation.
Or if it was just for the first half of a season, like with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2018-19.
“Garrett really just wants to be a part of the team and has the ability to find whatever is necessary to help the team,” then-Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff. “He doesn’t look for his own accolades and stats. He does things naturally that some coaches have to beg some guys to do. Those are the things as a coach that I dream of having in a guy. He understands it’s never about him.”
Or for four years with the Wizards where he earned his first fully guaranteed NBA contracts.
“Temp is one of the best teammates you can ever have because he’s always working hard,” Wizards’ guard John Wall said. “When his number his called, he’s going to give you 110 percent.”
Or for two seasons in Sacramento where he was positive influence on and off the court.
“Anything you ask him to do, he’s going to do it,” then-Kings’ teammate DeMarcus Cousins said Temple. “He’s doing whatever is needed for the team and you can’t help but to appreciate guys like that.”
Or for the last 1½ months with the San Antonio Spurs in Temple’s tumultuous rookie season.
“Garrett’s been very aggressive, very confident,” Spurs’ coach Popovich said. “He’s scored for us, played pretty good defense. He’s basically been solid.”
Can’t wait for the future
Temple understands he can’t outrun Father Time. The glue guy is hoping to squeeze out three or four more seasons before calling it quits.
But right now, he’s fitting perfectly with a Nets’ team that signed him upon the insistence of their star guard Kyrie Irving, who always respected Temple as a tough competitor.
Through the first 54 games this season, Temple is averaging career highs of 10.4 points and 3.5 rebounds in 28.2 minutes per game. He has started 31 games, but currently enjoys the value he brings coming on the floor with the second unit.
“I know my role specifically,” Temple said. “They have me on the second unit in situations where I have to be aggressive, I get some open looks. The coach (Kenny Atkinson) has a system that fits my game. We have guys on the team that complement each other well.”
Like almost every other team Temple has played for, he has made a positive impact as a mentor in the Nets’ locker room to the younger players. His teammates call him “Prez” because of his leadership skills and his love of tailor-made suits he wears to every game.
He’s has already touched the Brooklyn community. Earlier this season, he paid for kids to attend a screening of “Just Mercy,” a film based on the case of Walter McMillian, a black man wrongfully imprisoned for the 1986 murder of a white woman in Alabama and sentenced to death.
“The younger you understand and are educated about the problems in society, the quicker you can change,” Temple said.
He has prepared for his possible first post-basketball career step by taking four times the NBPA’s leadership program, designed to prepare players for front-office jobs. In three straight general manager surveys, he has received votes for the active player who will make the best coach.
All because he has lived in his life and his career by five principles – be on time, work hard, pay attention to detail, be coachable and believe in yourself.
“I’m excited to see what the future holds,” Temple said. “I have few things I want to do, so I have a little anxiety about how I’m going to prioritize them. I want to go to law school or go into an NBA front office if possible. I’m excited to attack whatever I’m doing after this as well.”
Of course, he will.
If anything, the Glue Guy has always had sticktoitiveness.
(Editor’s note: This story appears in the March issue of Tiger Rag Magazine which will available Wednesday at its usual outlets)