Versatility helps Garrett Temple find NBA home _lowres

Washington Wizards guard Garrett Temple (17) celebrates in the overtime of the Wizards' NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, in Washington. The Wizards won 96-94. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

For his entire basketball career, Garrett Temple has known where he fit in on the court.

Year after year, it was more about being an unselfish distributor of the basketball to his teammates and, more importantly to Temple, as an above-average defender — his calling card dating to his days at University High and LSU.

Offense has always taken a back seat for Temple until this season, his sixth in pro ball — counting a year playing in Italy — with time in the NBA Development League thrown in for good measure.

Finally finding a home with the Washington Wizards, his sixth team in five NBA seasons, Temple has become more of a scoring threat in his team’s 4-2 start going into Saturday night’s game with the Indiana Pacers.

After scoring a career-high 18 points against the Milwaukee Bucks a week ago Saturday, Temple followed that with 17 points against the New York Knicks on Tuesday night and the next evening put up 16 against the Pacers.

Yet, Temple, who’s started all six games at shooting guard because Bradley Beal is out with a fractured wrist, isn’t about to be carried away.

After paying his dues, the versatile Temple knows the term defensive specialist is most associated with his name but isn’t offended by it like some players would.

“Defense and being versatile have definitely helped me,” Temple said earlier this week. “Ask any coach and they’ll tell you they love guys that can play three positions instead of one.

“Unless you’re Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James or Kevin Durant, you can’t just be a scorer in the NBA,” he said. “In order to be on the court, you have to defend your position and guard guys. The ability to be versatile and defend at three positions has helped me stay in this league.”

That’s how it’s been for at least 15 years for the 6-foot-6 Temple, now 28. He remembers his humble beginnings in basketball and isn’t going to let the offensive success he’s had so far this season go to his head.

Temple also scored 12 points in an Oct. 30 win against the Orlando Magic, which helped boost his average to 13.8 points before he scored just three points in a Friday night loss to the Toronto Raptors. Still, his 12.0 average is almost seven points higher than his best NBA season when he averaged 5.1 points for the Wizards in 2013.

Going into this season, Temple averaged 3.4 points a game while scoring in double digits 17 times in 177 career games.

“I’ve always been a late bloomer,” he said. “When I was 12 or 13, I barely played and my dad (former LSU star Collis Temple Jr.) was my coach. Everybody was better than me, but I kind of caught up.”

While NBA teams saw he could play on the defensive end, a role that earned him a few minutes in the rotation, Temple, who drained 14 of his first 27 shots from beyond the 3-point arc this season, said he honed his offensive skills in three stints in the D-League in 2011 and ’13.

In 63 career D-League games, he averaged 14.5 points and 3.6 assists per game and earned a spot on the all-star team after being urged by one of his coaches to concentrate on 3-point shots and layups.

“Going to the D-League actually helped me gain my confidence on the offensive end,” Temple said. “I knew it was just a matter of time before I could play the way I was capable of playing in the NBA.”

He’s certainly expanded his game after signing a two-year contract this summer with the Wizards, who gave him a chance when they promoted him from the D-League on Christmas Day 2012. He earlier played for Houston, Sacramento, Milwaukee and Charlotte — much of the time on 10-day contracts.

Typically, on the night he scored a career-high 18 points, Temple pointed to his defense as the highlight of his evening. He held Bucks guard O.J. Mayo to just 1 of 7 on field-goal attempts and three points.

“Offensively and defensively,” he said proudly, “that was my best all-around game.”

Temple knows he’ll return to his role of coming off the bench when Beal gets back, but he may have earned many more minutes as a backup to Beal or point guard John Wall, or even at small forward, as a result of his solid play.

“It’s just very nice to have an NBA home, especially with as much traveling around as I’ve had to do in professional basketball,” Temple said. “But this has always been my dream. I understand this is what I’m supposed to do, and it’s going to happen as long as I continue to put in the work.”

Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.