AT&T CENTER – Washington Wizards guard Garrett Temple returned to San Antonio Wednesday as the Spurs defeated the Wizards 92-79. Temple spent 19 games in the 2009-10 season with the Spurs and just three games in the 2010-11 season, but in his short stint as a Spur, he learned some valuable lessons that he’s carried with him all the way to today.
Before the Spurs and Wizards tipped off, I caught up with Temple to ask him about his time in San Antonio, what he’s seen from the team since departing, and we also discussed their future.
When Temple was with San Antonio, the big three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker were in their late 20s to early 30s. I asked him if he was surprised to see them 28 seconds from a championship this past summer, where they lost to the Miami Heat in seven games in the NBA Finals.
“Not at all man,” said Temple, “and Tony isn’t as old as he likes to tell people. He’s been in the league since he was 18 or 19. When I was playing with him, he was in his late 20s, but it didn’t surprise me at all (to see them in the Finals).”
“Being here and watching what Tim does every day, day-in and day-out in terms of work ethic and consistency, and then seeing what Manu does day-in and day-out, and then what Tony does, how all three of them have their mindset of ‘team first’ and with a coach like (Gregg) Popovich, he’s easily up there as one of the greatest coaches to ever do it, that holds everybody accountable, that holds everybody to a certain level of responsibility, it wouldn’t surprise me.”
Since playing with San Antonio, Temple has been a journeyman around the NBA with four different stops before landing with Washington last season. In his time of playing for different teams and several different coaches, I wanted to know if there was anything he took from his time in San Antonio that he still carries and uses today.
“Yeah definitely,” said Temple. “I think the biggest thing is accountability.”
“Some people, with their star players, they get to do a little more, which is how the NBA works. But Coach Pop holds everybody accountable. So if you do more, you have more responsibility as well. So that’s one thing that I really took from that, was that he gets on Tim, Tony, Manu just as much, if not more than he gets on other players. I think that accountability is what makes him so good.”
That one answer encompasses exactly what you see from San Antonio as they’ve continued with their success year after year. When players like Nando De Colo lose the backup point guard spot just before the playoffs, or how Richard Jefferson was traded because he could never be that perfect fit, it’s because when Popovich holds you accountable, it’s your responsibility to deliver, which is what a majority of the Spurs’ roster does each year. Even looking back at how the Stephen Jackson era ended, you see that, with Popovich, if you’re not accountable for your role with the team, you probably won’t have a place with the team in the future.
Though they never played with the Spurs together, Temple said he’s had experience with Danny Green, as they both came into the NBA at the same time. He talked about how Green has found a home in San Antonio where his skill set is a perfect fit with the system.
“Since high school Danny’s always been a shooter. In college, that’s exactly what Danny did, was shoot the ball. He had a role in North Carolina. When he got to the NBA, it took him a while to find a team that relished or used him to the best of his abilities in that role, and the Spurs were the team that could do that.”
“He’s definitely found his niche,” continued Temple on Green, “he’s a guy who can knock down threes, and play defense at multiple positions, so I’m happy for him to be able to find that niche and be able to have a very successful career thus far.”
Playing in the Eastern Conference, Temple and the Wizards see All-Star small forwards like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony four times a year. I asked him from afar, what he thinks about Kawhi Leonard, and Temple had some impressive thoughts on how good Leonard will be in the near future.
“Kawhi is a very cerebral player,” said Temple. “He’s going to be one of the best three men (small forwards) in the league in the next two to three years.”
“When you have guys like LeBron, Kevin Durant, Carmelo, he might have to take a back seat for a little while, but eventually they’re going to pass the torch to guys like Kawhi and Paul George. You know Kawhi is up there, I think he’s going to be a perennial all-star when he gets there. He’s not that far away.”
As Duncan and Ginobili will enter the ending of their careers in a few seasons, Temple says the future of San Antonio looks bright with the player who is already the ordinary Spur, Leonard.
“He’s a very good player,” continued Temple on Leonard, “I love his poise, I love the fact that he stays composed and he’s not really flashy.”
“He’s a typical Spurs player if you think about it like that.”