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Wizards' utility option aims for rotation spot


Wizards' utility option aims for rotation spot

We're in October which means the Major League Baseball playoffs are in full bloom. Simply noting the calendar seeing as the best term describing Garrett Temple's value for the Washington Wizards comes from the national pastime.

The yearly plan rarely starts with Temple high in the Wizards rotation. Yet ever since he landed in Washington on Christmas Day 2012, somehow the lengthy guard ends up there. Even though Washington added several perimeter players this summer, no reason to think the 2015-16 will be any different.

"Hey man, I'm blessed to be in the right position at the right time," Temple said when the initial plan premise is mentioned. "Try to take advantage of my opportunity. I just have to be ready and come back healthy, be ready whenever my name is called.

"Like [Wizards coach Randy Wittman] always says -- what's the word he always uses? Utility infielder. I think that's my thing."

During his 178 games with the Wizards, including 54 starts, the 6-foot-6 Temple has filled many a role. His length allows him to guard all three perimeter positions. His basketball smarts provides the team with a point guard fill-in. His team-first mentality keeps the LSU product focused even if games go by without him taking off his warm-ups.

"I stay ready whenever I'm called upon," Temple said. "My versatility is what helps me stay on the court."

In theory, the Wizards added playing time roadblocks with the additions of free agents Gary Neal and Alan Anderson, and first round pick Kelly Oubre Jr. Same on some level for swing forward Jared Dudley, who the Wizards acquired via trade to primarily play minutes at stretch-4.Neal, Anderson and Oubre will vie for minutes behind Otto Porter and Bradley Beal, Washington's starting small forward and wing guard respectively.

Temple, whose status is uncertain for Friday's preseason game at Philadelphia due to a sore hamstring, will as well.

"I think when I get healthy I'll be in the mix for that wing spot behind Otto and Brad," he said this week.

Temple started 18 games last season primarily due to Beal's preseason injury and averaged 14.2 minutes overall. Those particular numbers figured to decline once the Wizards addressed their wing depth.

Now Anderson is sidelined following ankle surgery with no timetable for return established. Dudley only participated fully in practice Wednesday for the first time since undergoing back surgery this summer. Oubre shows promise, but potential doesn't always equal consistent minutes for any NBA rookie. That's largely been the case under Wizards coach Randy Wittman especially if there are veteran options to lean on.

When Wittman looks for perimeter help, he often turns to the reliable Temple.

"I love having guys like that on the team that can sit there and then step in. He believes in himself and his teammates believe in him."

Washington added these new players specifically in part because of their 3-point shooting ability. Though not a strength historically for Temple, he sank a career-high 33 shots from beyond the arc last season with a 37.5 percent clip.

"We've really, really worked on his jump shot," Wittman said when asked about the evolution of Temple's game. "That's been the main thing and I think we've seen progress. That span when Brad was hurt, he shot the 3 as good as he's shot the 3 in his career up through that stretch."

Though his shot was falling in the preseason opener against the 76ers on Oct. 6, the LSU product nearly completed a triple double with seven points, nine rebounds and seven assists in 24 minutes during the 129-95 blowout win. There will be chances for productive stats playing Washington's new up-tempo offense. Temple recognizes his rebounding could be key with the Wizards using more small ball lineups.

Ultimately, Temple is no home run hitter. He will make his mark this season defensively. That and being ready when needed. Even though Anderson also provides defense, Neal shooting touch and Oubre pure potential, ultimately Temple will find his way into the lineup  That's just how it's worked for him in Washington.

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards rookie Kelly Oubre: 'I feel like I'm at square one again'

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Chris Paul is reportedly recruiting LeBron James to the Rockets, which would change East dramatically

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Chris Paul is reportedly recruiting LeBron James to the Rockets, which would change East dramatically

Next to actually signing LeBron James himself, there is another scenario involving the NBA's best player that should sound great to Eastern Conference teams. That is if James decides to leave the conference altogether for a team in the West, and it sounds like Chris Paul is trying to make that dream come true.

Paul, according to ESPN, is actively recruiting James to join the Houston Rockets. The Rockets won an NBA-best 65 games in the 2017-18 season and fell one win short of reaching the NBA Finals.

Here is what Adrian Wojnarowski said as transcribed by Pro Basketball Talk:

Chris is going to return there. And listen, right now, Chris Paul’s focus isn’t so much on his own free agency. He’s trying to recruit LeBron James to Houston, and somebody close to him said to me he is as focused on recruiting LeBron as anything he’s done in this league. He wants to find a way.

There's no doubt Houston would give James an opportunity to contend and maybe even win championships. They were up 3-2 on the Warriors in the conference finals before losing the final two games. Paul missed the last two games of the series due to injury.

If the Rockets were that close without James, adding him would likely push them over the hump. Even with the Warriors being as good as they are, the Rockets would be a super team on a level rarely seen in NBA history. James and Rockets guard James Harden are the two frontrunners for MVP. Then there's Paul, a perennial All-NBA guard who is a surefire Hall of Famer once his playing days are over.

If James went West, that would break the streak of his teams winning the Eastern Conference playoff bracket eight years in a row. The conference would be more wide open than it has been in nearly a decade, giving teams like the Sixers, Celtics, Raptors, Wizards and others a better shot at reaching the Finals.

One alternative is James leaving Cleveland to form another titan within the East. That could happen if he goes to Philly or Boston or somewhere else with some pieces already in place. It's conceivable that James stays in the East and does so with a team that is much better than the Cavs squad he led to the Finals this past season.

On the face of it, James would probably be smart to not go to Houston. As good as the Rockets are and as stacked as they would be if he joined them, he would then subject himself to battling the Warriors in the conference finals or earlier. If winning is his No. 1 goal, he is better off continuing to dominate the East and focus on improving his chances of beating the Warriors once he sees them in the Finals.

Still, Paul can dream. And if James does go West, no one in the East will complain.

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Full 2018 NBA Draft preview for Wizards fans, including an interview with Robert Williams

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Full 2018 NBA Draft preview for Wizards fans, including an interview with Robert Williams

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller talked all things NBA Draft.

They gave their picks for the best options for the Wizards, the safest and riskiest prospects, plus what they expect the team to do. Texas A&M big man Robert Williams also joined the show in a 1-on-1 interview.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!