SACRAMENTO -- The Kings knew what they were getting when they signed Garrett Temple in the summer of 2016. They needed versatility and they needed a leader. Temple hasn’t disappointed.
In his second season in Sacramento, the 31-year-old wing continues to bring his lunch pail to work every day. He starts most nights for Dave Joerger and he is unquestionably the team’s best defensive player.
Following the Kings’ loss Tuesday evening to the Charlotte Hornets, Temple sounded off to reporters from his locker room stall.
“We don’t guard a soul, haven’t defended a soul,” a clearly frustrated Garrett Temple said. “If you don’t guard in the NBA, you’re going to lose every game, I don’t care who you play. We haven’t defended whatsoever, at all, point blank.”
It’s a powerful sound bite. If it didn’t come from Temple, it might even be looked at as divisive. But this is why the Kings brought in the journeyman out of LSU.
Following practice on Wednesday, Temple took time to further explain his stance regarding the Kings defensive issues. It’s a complex issue and the fix will take time.
“We should be upset because of the performances defensively we’ve put out the last three or four games,” Temple said. “Especially after we had made some strides to be a better defensive team over the last month and a half. We’ve taken steps back and we have to correct that.”
Temple takes great pride in his defense. He’s often taxed with guarding the toughest cover. Against the Cavs, he went toe-to-toe with LeBron James. Two nights later, he lined up against sharpshooter Devin Booker. When the Kings give up 111, 114 and 133 points over a three-game stretch, there is a problem.
“If you’re not upset about it right now, that means you don’t really care,” Temple added. “We don’t want that.”
According to Temple, the Kings had a long film session on Wednesday, followed by an open conversation between players and coaches. The team has a three-day break in the schedule to try and work out some of these issues, but it’s a tall task.
Defensive breakdowns can be a symptom of many things. Effort and intensity often draw the blame, but when you look at Sacramento’s roster, a lot of the issues stem from a lack of NBA experience and maybe something more.
Temple points to the team’s communication issues on the floor and to one group in particular.
“The biggest thing is the communication issue and I think a lot of the time, it’s the young guys that aren’t communicating, because they’re young,” Temple said. “Situations that happen over the course of a game and you watch film and guys say, ‘I didn’t know.’ You’re not supposed to know, you just got to the NBA or you’ve just been here for a year and a half.”
“Those are the growing pains you have to go through, but you can’t make the same mistake 2-3-4-5 times,” Temple said. “That’s when it becomes being a professional - understanding what you’re supposed to do now after you made a mistake a couple of times and then fixing it.”
It isn’t just the Kings roster that Temple is pointing to. It’s more of a societal issue. In the current digital age, verbal communication has been replaced in many instances with text, video and pictures. People as a whole aren’t talking to each other like they used to, at least not in the conventional way.
And when you stack 10 players on a roster under the age of 25, the issues with a lack of communication are exacerbated.
“I’m a millennial, but it seems like we don’t talk at all anymore,” Temple said. “That translates to the court. We don’t talk at all. Coaches are losing their voices trying to yell out coverages and yell out things that guys on the court are supposed to be saying. That takes a toll. Guys have to learn how to communicate and use their voices more on the court, which in essence will help guys trust each other more on the defensive end.”
It’s an interesting take and it makes sense. Sacramento is trying something extreme with their roster makeover. They went in a new direction with their franchise and growing pains are expected.
The team may have isolated one of their biggest problems. Now they need to find an answer. Veterans like Garrett Temple might hold the key to fixing the issue. It might be time to put the devices down and start having some real one on one conversations.