The reason Garrett Temple, who had bounced around the NBA, D-League and Europe before finding a home with the Wizards in 2012, is here is defense. But the combo guard occasionally can do more than that.
In tying his career-high of 18 points in a 108-99 win vs. the Orlando Magic on Saturday, Temple made his first start with Bradley Beal out with a left shoulder contusion. He was inserted over Gary Neal because coach Randy Wittman was concerned about Evan Fournier, who has been a problem matchup.
"I was going out looking to defend. Fournier has been on a hot streak averaging like 19, 20 a game. He still got his 18. I focused first and foremost on defense," said Temple, who made 3 of 6 threes and is considered the Wizards' best one-on-one defender. "Everything else falls into place."
Fournier only shot 7 of 17, including 1 of 6 on threes. Temple was in sync with John Wall from the beginning. He has spent a lot of time with Beal in the backcourt, too. When he was a rookie, Beal didn't have Wall to run with because he had a knee injury and Temple started a career-high 36 games in 2012-13. They won just 29 games but remarkably had a top 10 scoring defense which is virtually unheard of among losing teams. That's why he's a favorite of Wittman.
"Temp is one of the best teammates you can ever have because he’s always working hard, always one of the first and last guys (to come and leave). Never makes excuses if he’s not playing," said Wall, "but when his number his called, his opportunity is (there), he’s going to give you 110 percent. He’s not going to do nothing out of his game.”
It has taken time for him to become a better three-point shooter. When the Wizards didn't have Beal to start last season because of a broken wrist, Temple started the first nine games as they won seven. He made 14 of his first 27 threes before cooling off and settled back into his role of a situational player off the bench.
"I work well John because I know he knows where I'm going to be in the corners, running the lanes, so in the second half we were able to get out and run off of our defense," said Temple, who can assume some of the ball-handling duties to give Wall a chance to catch his breath. "That's when we were able to flourish.
"We worked on it every day, the catch drive and kick. A couple plays, we're catching it. If we have the space we shoot the shot. If not, we drive it, lanes open up, we're able to hit the bigs. I hit a couple times after the drive. That's just being aggressive, taking what the defense gives you and letting the game come to you."
It may be a while before he has another performance like this. Or it may happen sooner rather than later. That's how it is with Temple. He won't complain. He'll prepare the same way each day as he pushes Wall and Beal in practices. When the Wizards sometimes struggle defensively, Temple will be the only player that Wittman will praise for doing the right things.
"He gave us great energy. Starting him, from an offensive standpoint and defensively, it gives us that energized bunny that we need," Wittman said. "He lets things come to him.
"He's a speedster. He's not a guy you want to play a walk-up offense with because of his ability to run the lanes, to handle the ball. ... This (offense) fits him pretty good, too."