Garrett Temple wrapped up his first season with the Chicago Bulls last week, the culmination of the 35-year-old’s 11th NBA campaign with his 10th different franchise.
That means Temple, who has played on eight different 10-day contracts in his professional career, understands the business of basketball as well as anyone. But with his one-year contract expired and free agency ahead, he hopes to have found a home in Chicago.
“I could never say what's going to happen in free agency. I can only say what I would like to happen,” Temple said via Zoom during his end-of-season exit interview with reporters. “I really enjoyed Chicago. Even with the snow, even with the pandemic, the organization from what I've been hearing took a turn for the better. It was great while I was here.”
Culture-building doesn’t happen overnight, and the Bulls’ missing out on the 2021 postseason disappointed, but Temple painted an optimistic outlook of the organization’s future. He appreciates the close-to-the-vest nature and talent evaluation chops of Artūras Karnišovas and Marc Eversley; he lauded Billy Donovan’s motivational speeches and ability to hold players accountable; and he’s been a proponent of Zach LaVine’s superstar potential from the first day he stepped foot in the Advocate Center.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the organization, by the coaching,” Temple said. “It’s a bright future.”
The question is if or how Temple fits into that future. When the Bulls inked him to a one-year, $4.8 million contract last offseason it wasn’t met with much fanfare, but the signing yielded solid results. Temple immediately slid into a role as one of the team’s trusted perimeter defenders and locker-room leaders, bringing impact beyond his 7.6 points per game.
Now, he’s poised to enter unrestricted free agency, where anything can happen. The Bulls own Temple’s Bird rights for the time being, meaning they have the ability to go over the salary cap line to re-sign him. But they may choose to renounce those rights — and clear his $5.7 million cap hold from their books — in pursuit of addressing more pressing needs through free agency.
Temple, who said he couldn’t fathom how a team with the Bulls’ talent level couldn’t crack the top 10 of the Eastern Conference, believes he still has contributions left to make — and business left to finish.
“I would love to be here and be that same veteran presence, that defender, a guy that the young guys can lean upon, Coach (Donovan) can lean upon to impart things to the team,” Temple said. “I feel like I got a few more years to play, to really compete on the court, so I would love to be back.
“I don't have a player option, the option is not mine, the choice is not mine. But once we get things together this is definitely a place I would love to come back to and finish what I think we started here in terms of being able to get to be a contender in the East."