Garrett Temple was an under-the-radar free agency signing last Fall but his contributions to a young Bulls team was palpable. Entering the offseason as a free agent, he told Chicago media on Monday that he hopes to return to Chicago to continue to be a veteran presence and help the Bulls contend in the East.
Garrett Temple has seen some things, which you do being in the NBA 11 years on 10 different teams through a series of 10-day contracts and a season in Italy, not necessarily to sample the food and architecture.
Something he wasn't sure he'd seen before was a team, like the Bulls, with a pair of All-Stars, some very good young talent and savvy veterans not even able to find the top 10 in this year's Eastern Conference.
"Nah, I really can't," Temple told reporters Monday morning when asked if he could believe this Bulls roster on the outside of the play-in tournament. "That's why it's so disappointing. Because of the talent that we have. Even before the trade that made us better talent-wise, we had the talent to be a top-10 team. You look back at the games that we lost (narrowly), Oklahoma City, the Portland game, the Golden State game, the Atlanta game up nine, all of these games that we had and just literally gave away and let slip through our fingers. It's a tough pill to swallow.
"We're a team that definitely should be in the top 10 by the talent, by the coaching, all of these things combined," said Temple. "Zach (LaVine) being out during that crucial push time (with Covid) didn't help. But yeah, it's tough to actually see the stats and see that 10 teams had a better record than us in the Eastern Conference."
Garrett Temple's end-of-season press conference call with the Chicago media.
It's why in many respects this was as disappointing and frustrating a conclusion to a season as the Bulls have faced in years.
The cerebral Temple joined the team on a one-year free agent contract, and he was one of the biggest surprise acquisitions of the offseason, averaging 7.6 points and inspiring the team with his defense and clutch shooting. Considering the fate of the NBA season-to-season nomad, Temple isn't sure about his next destination. He'll take the snow and cold.
For the hope and promise.
"I learned about the business early on through my 10-day contracts. So I could never say what's going to happen in free agency," said Temple, who turned 35 last week. "I can only say what I would like to happen: I really enjoyed Chicago. Even with the snow, even with the pandemic, the organization from what I've been hearing took a turn for the better. It was great while I was here. AK (Arturas Karnisovas) and Marc (Eversley) have done a great job of trying to build a culture here. Billy (Donovan), as well. I would love to be here and be that same veteran presence, that defender, a guy that the young guys can lean upon, coach can lean upon to impart things to the team. I feel like I've got a few more years to play, to really compete on the court. But I don't have a player option; the choice is not mine. Once we get things together this is definitely a place I would love to come back to, and, as I said, finish what I think we started here in terms of being able to get to be a contender in the East. I think it's definitely going in the right direction. I was pleasantly surprised by the organization, by the coaching. It was really good. It's a bright future."
It's difficult to see that now through the disappointment of the season's end when the Bulls were so sure they'd at least get a chance to play into the playoffs.
Though Temple, the 6-5 shooting guard, doesn't believe the Bulls are as far away as it might seem.
Garrett Temple defends Jayson Tatum in a win over the Celtics.
"I don't think we really need certain pieces," Temple said. "I think we have the talent right now. I think it's just a matter of after that trade just getting to know each other. You don't want to have excuses, but the fact of the matter is we had one practice since the trade and I don't think Zach was even there; I think he had Covid during that time. It takes time. A trade like that happens when you bring in somebody like Vooch (Nikola Vucevic) that's going to be your 1B, your 1A guy, to be able to mesh well and you bring in one or two other guys that are in the rotation, it's going to take awhile. So I think having guys together for a full offseason and training camp is definitely going to help. Arturas and Marc are going to do what they do. They've shown they're really good at their job. They keep things close to the vest, so we won't know until it happens probably.
"I think they understand what it takes to create a good team and they got a great head guy in Billy to be able to put things together," Temple said. "So whatever that piece is, if it is out there, I think they'll be able to find it. But having Zach reach the potential he was able to reach this year and having a guy like Vooch at center, I think we have two key pieces that we're able to build off of. I'm really enjoying how Pat (Williams) and Coby (White) have grown this year. It's going to be interesting to see what happens."
Which should make for an appealing summer, if also anxious for players like Temple hoping to continue in their jobs.
Temple is one of the most popular teammates around the NBA and a longtime officer of the players' association. So he's been involved in a lot of the league planning and execution during the virus. And while we came to take it for granted from our living rooms, the league carried off basically a complete season, albeit with 10 fewer regular season games, against great odds. And doubters.
"I do applaud the league for being able to pull this off," said Temple. "I was there in the bubble. It's much easier to control things in a bubble, obviously. But to be able to play a full season, 70-plus games, in all of these different cities, I don't think there was one game that was cancelled that was not played (later). We didn't have any three games in a row, which is good. It was tough on our bodies, but I think as a whole, to be able to get some fans back in the building by the end of the season and just pull off what they were able to pull off and accomplish it, it was good. I applaud the league, I applaud the PA for being able to do that. Obviously, there were a few more injuries, I would imagine, because of the way we did things. But hopefully this will be able to get us back on schedule next season and hopefully the pandemic would have shortened. I'm excited. I'm happy that we were able to get this accomplished the way we did."
Garrett Temple shoots over future Bulls teammate Troy Brown Jr early in the 2020-21 season.
Players also understood when you are in a job that pays an average salary of more than $5 million, you don't complain. And certainly not as people all over the world struggled with their health and careers. But Temple also offered a glimpse of that daily routine for the players that did enable the NBA to finish its season without interruption.
"The late night, 11 p.m. test," Temple disclosed. "You get a cotton swab in your nose 11 p.m., fall asleep; you gotta set an alarm to wake up later that night. Waiting for 35 minutes, 30 minutes before you can go get dressed in the locker room. People hoping to get Covid, the younger guys hoping to get Covid so you don't have to wait for the test.
"It was a very interesting season," Temple agreed. "I didn't even get to go to training camp because of Covid. Then all the things that we had happen. A big-time trade happened and then our star player getting Covid toward the end of the season when we were making our push to get in. With that being said, I think we left a lot of things on the table. We didn't reach our full potential. Obviously, there were positives, but we didn't reach our goal and that's disappointing.
"But then the best thing about being a Bull, even in the pandemic, you go to other arenas and it's only 3,000 people in the arena, and you've got a lot of Bulls fans," said Temple. "Even on teams that are top two seed in the conference. That shows you what type of reach this organization has, the fanbase that this organization has across the country, across the world. So I'm excited as I said if I'm able to be back here next year to see that in full effect at home, see what that's really like."
To bring Chicago's Temple to Chicago's temple of basketball.