Keeping the Locker Room In Good Spirits Through Temple

Outside of Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Jaren Jackson, Jr., Garrett Temple has become a favorite for many at an unprecedented speed.

For the Grizzlies to truly recommit to the “Grit-n-Grind” play-style, there is nothing more trademarked by the Grizzlies like rolling out a wing in his thirties over a young talent. Maybe that joke wasn’t as obvious as I hoped. When the Temple trade happened, Sacramento and Grizz fans both said, “We traded all that, for this?” Although, in VERY different tones. For perspective… this was all Memphis fans saw in Woj’s tweet for a few minutes:

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Just seeing that the Grizzlies were moving on from Ben McLemore and Deyonta Davis made many fans giggle in excitement, but full blown hysteria didn’t hit until after the casual fans googled Garrett Temple and read “good defender.”

Sacramento fans, however, were not jumping up and down with joy. They lost a guy who was not only a member of the Kings, but a member of the community.

And Memphis fans know all about that.

Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee tweeted, “I’ve got confirmation the deal is getting done... Kings trading their best defender and great leader for another young big, Deyonta Davis, and another shooting guard, former King Ben McLemore.”

No excitement or positivity, just the voice of the tired, weary, and indifferent.

“Anytime you leave a city that you’ve grown fond of is tough, but it was a situation,” Garrett Temple said on the trade. “We had a lot of wings, a lot of perimeter players, in Sacramento. It was honestly best for both sides. I got a chance to get somewhere I can play and contribute, so I was happy with it. Ironically, the coaching staff there was obviously very familiar with Memphis, so they told me the ins and outs. I was able to meet JB on the trip to Africa which allowed us to get to talking and see each other’s mindsets. It’s been great and I think it’s worked out for both sides.”

Now he is a starter for the Memphis Grizzlies.

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Temple, in just over a month of playing with his new team, has already earned a starting role, the respect of defenders, and the trust of fans. As guard or wing in Memphis, the last two have been notoriously difficult as a going player in Memphis because of shooting woes as the past few years have gone by, and that has made gaining the start immensely easy.

Bare with me here. The last few people to get big minutes in Garrett Temple’s place as a starting 2 or 3? Tony Allen, James Ennis, Jeff Green, Matt Barnes, and Courtney Lee. In a much smaller sample size, Temple has already risen to number two on this list. Need I say who number 1 is? Come on guys.

Courtney Lee? Solid, yet consistently inconsistent. It’s easy to agree that he just wouldn’t pull the trigger as much as he should/could have.

Matt Barnes came in and did what was expected: drill corner threes to somewhat take some pressure off of the ball at a VERY cheap price.


David Fizdale’s premier “Swiss Army Knife” of a player, James Ennis,  while a project for sure, was one of the better, outside of the man in the title, 3-and-D wings mentioned that we’ve had. Which is saying a lot. Ennis had inconsistent minutes and rotations, but rarely had a direct negative effect on ball games. However, there were many times when he didn’t affect anything… at all, which in turn, had negative consequences.

I don’t even have to detail Tony Allen or Jeff Green’s time in Memphis, though, for VERY DIFFERENT REASONS. And if I’m going to continue the former Grizz wings comparison, then it would be criminal to not mention how similar Vince Carter’s final year in Memphis is to Garrett Temple’s production this season.

Yes, there’s a near 10 year age gap and Temple isn’t anywhere near the high profile Vince was and still is, but, in terms of just playing basketball, it’s almost erie. Vince came into games that one year and flipped them when it wasn’t necessarily expected. Temple has been a difference this season that no one expected he would be and it’s simply refreshing.

Maybe it’s a testament to the 8 years spent as a pro, or the collective experience of 10 Day contracts, or fighting for that final roster spot, or finding himself in Italy for a season, or just his character, Garrett Temple has found himself in a role that’s new, but, at the same time, is very similar to one he has been in before.

Posting career-highs in nearly every traditional statistic, Temple was acquired as a solid team defender and, more importantly, a veteran locker room leader. After David Fizdale’s coaching stint in Memphis, Grizzlies fans might be tired of that last phrase, but, after Fiz struggled to find that guy in Mike and Marc consistently without Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, something, or rather someone, was needed.

Last season, he posted a career-high in points per game (8.4) in 65 total games and 35 starts in 24.8 minutes for a Sacramento team was not good. At all. Neither were we, but that’s of no concern at the present moment.

This season however, he is averaging a career high in minutes per game (31.9), rebounds (3.2), field goals attempted per game (8.2) on -still a career high- 45.9%, three-pointers attempted (4.3) and made (1.6) per game, and points per game (10.7). I asked Temple what was the difference between his two career years and he put it all on the starting minutes:

“Just the role. An opportunity to start, playing a lot of minutes, coaching staff believes in me, teammates believe in me. I had an opportunity in Sacramento, took advantage of it, but I think it’s just the match here, the coaching staff and the players that are here, they value what i bring to the table. That’s the biggest difference.”

Temple has extremely cooled off since a scorching start that included a season high in points (30) in his official introduction to Memphis and the home season opener against the Atlanta Hawks back on October 19. He made a season high of 5 threes out of 6 attempts. The lone missed three was his only miss of the night as he finished 10-11 from the field.

Temple may blame the extra minutes for his career surge, but no matter who you are or where you go that is never the full story. Temple, after all, isn’t your usual starting shooting guard, so more minutes and the ball in his hands more often isn’t the only thing that will do the trick. For Temple, it’s the trust and relationships that surround him between himself, players, and coaching staff. Especially when considering he just joined the NBA’s longest active duo, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.

“Those guys play basketball the right way. I pride myself on doing the same,” he commented on the franchise cornerstones. “My old coaching staff told me what type of players they are, and I’ve seen them from afar. Like I said, they play the right way. You know what type of plays that they can make. I’ve tried to fit in where I can, and hopefully I’m doing a good job of that.”

Temple didn’t give himself enough credit on how much he has fit in with this team. According to NBAStats.com, 87.7 percent of his made three-pointers have been assisted. For a guy who makes 1.7 out of 4.3 attempts a game from beyond the arc, that may not look like a lot on the surface. That shows immense trust between Temple and his teammates who have seen Temple shoot as well as 5-6 and 4-7 and as poor as 0-4 twice, including the December 8 game against the Lakers.

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Temple may be on an expiring $8 million contract, but I wouldn’t run to the ESPN Trade Machine, plug in names, and say, “Hey, the money works,” just yet. This team wins because of the relationships that are built. This team’s lockdown defense works because the guys that JB, Chris Wallace, and Co. found over the summer are all on the same page.

“He’s a grownup, he’s a professional, He’s steady. In the locker room, the weight room, on the court, in the practice gym, you know exactly what you’re going to get out of Garrett every single night,” said JB Bickerstaff. “He’s a guy who is the glue for our group; he hold pieces together. He doesn’t mind being vocal. He’s intelligent and he understands how to communicate with people, so when he’s talking to people… nobody feels defensive because they know his information is usually correct and he knows what’s best for the team. It’s not for self-serving purposes, so people listen to him and accept whatever teachings he’s giving to them.”

I’m assuming that when JB said “you know exactly what you’re going to get out of Garrett every single night,” he was referring to his leadership and work ethic. The facts and stats show that you literally have no idea, offensively, what you will get from Garrett night in and night out, but he’s recognized that. He knows that there’s going to be bumps in the road and slumps throughout the long season.

After shooting 31.8% from three in the first 10 games of the month of December off of 44 attempts, he’s shot 47.6% in the three games since. Making 10 of 21.

“You have slumps, you know. One day, I heard Ray Allen talk about that, everybody having slumps. And when you heard a guy that’s like basically the best three-point shooter of all time… well, until these two guys [Steph and Klay] came along. If he has slumps, everybody’s gonna go through it,” Temple said. “Just staying consistent, staying with the routine. Maybe changing a few things up pregame. Coach [Greg] Buckner does a good job getting me ready. Changing things up and we talked about a few tweaks, taking my time a little more. I was rushing it, so it felt good to see a few more go down.”

JB spoke a bit after the win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 26 about how important Garrett Temple has been on the basketball side of things.

“It’s huge. I think when you create open shots for one another, to see them go in the basket, that sparks your defense as well. Then, Mike, Marc, and Jaren are out there playing. Guys know that they’re going to get shots, then the defense has to worry about those guys making shots too. Garrett’s minutes to us, because of his ability to defend and put pressure on another team’s best offensive perimeter player, and then to have him on the floor to be able to space and knock down shots, he takes a lot of pressure off everybody else. We need his defensive presence.”

Despite his own inconsistencies, Temple isn't ready to settle.

“Just got to continue to get better as a team,” Temple replied when asked about what the Grizzlies need to work on. “Defensively, we’re doing some pretty good things we can improve. Offensively, continue to get to know each other. We still got a lot to learn from each other, but just continue to grind, continue to get better, and win games on the defensive end.”

GrizzEric Lentz