The droughts. The huge swings in production from game to game. Succumbing to in-game adversity.
These all are traits of a young team, issues that coach Billy Donovan cited as soon as the Bulls’ four-game preseason schedule concluded Friday night in Oklahoma City.
Veterans can help.
“Just talking guys through certain things that I see, whether it be defensive things, offensively or just making sure we stay together,” Garrett Temple said Sunday after his first practice as a Bull. “If a team goes on a 5-0 run, 10-0 run that we stay together and not put our heads down. Things of that nature are some things I think I can help out with right away.
“Then on the court, defensively I know where to be once I get the understanding of the things we want to do defensively. Offensively, just playing the right way. But I think really, that veteran voice and trying to keep guys up is something I can help out with right away.”
As the Bulls’ lone free-agent acquisition this offseason, Temple arrived as a projected stabilizing influence at both ends. But he tested positive for COVID-19 on the team’s first day of testing, which made his Sunday return so welcomed.
“Feeling pretty good. Feel like I’m in training camp, a little sore. My legs are a little sore,” Temple said. “Had 14, 16 days off.”
Temple detailed his process to return, something that’s instructive as the NBA tries to navigate an unprecedented season. Quarantined at a hotel, Temple waited until his symptoms subsided and he tested negative before he tackled the EKG protocol and cardiovascular testing required for return.
Once he was able to work out individually, he took an antibody test.
“I found out I got a lot of antibodies fighting whatever virus is left in me,” Temple said. “Obviously, I’m not contagious anymore so I was able to get back out here.”
And the best part? The 10-year veteran hasn’t ruled out playing in Wednesday’s regular-season opener against the Hawks.
“I’m not looking to play 35 minutes or anything like that,” Temple said. “But I definitely think it’s in play as long we don’t have anything happen over the next few days.”
The Bulls sent Temple film as he recovered, allowing him to get up to speed on the offensive and defensive systems and terminology that Billy Donovan and his staff are utilizing.
“I think me playing professionally for over 10 years now and being on so many different teams, I’ve been able to learn the nuance and terminology pretty quickly whatever team I’ve gone to,” Temple said. “A lot of plays in the NBA are the same plays, just different terminology.”
While Donovan is trying to plan his rotation, a process made more difficult by the disjointed nature of player availability during camp, he said Temple is ahead of the curve because of his film study. And it’s clear Donovan values veteran stability for a young team.
Temple played for the Brooklyn Nets when the league concluded its 2019-20 season in the so-called “bubble” on the Disney World campus in Florida. As a vice president of the players association, he now has experienced the return-to-play protocol first-hand and knows the challenges the league faces this season.
“It’s going to be very tough. It’s so much different than the bubble. There are so many extenuating circumstances, so many outside influences. Everybody’s going to learn on the fly,” he said. “There are going to be a lot of changes throughout the season. But I think us having something we did in the bubble a little bit to piggyback off of and think about in terms of testing protocols and that nature will help us. But at the end of the day, the onus is going to be on the players. We have to be smart about what we do at home and on the road.”