Sam Smith: What Garrett Temple's signing means for the Bulls

Temple's reputation as a veteran leader and incredible teammate in the NBA precedes him, but what does it mean for the Bulls.
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Garrett Temple may be a vital brick in the foundation of excellence, respect and professionalism that Karnisovas promises to infuse in the Bulls future.

Garrett Temple, the Bulls primary free agent acquisition this fall, isn't the most distinguished NBA player. The Bulls will be his 11th NBA team to go along with three different stints in the G-league, the owner of nine 10-day midseason contracts and a season in Italy. His picture is in the NBA glossary under journeyman, un-drafted out of LSU in 2009. Yet, the 34-year-old Temple achieved regard that accrues to few in the NBA. Kyrie Irving especially values him. Yes, a guy who's averaged 6.4 points in a decade in the NBA.

The notoriously factious Irving was, in theory, Temple's teammate in Brooklyn last season. Irving watched much of the season with injuries along with Kevin Durant while Temple had his best pro season, often starting and averaging double figures for the first time in his career and a dozen points in the Nets first round playoff defeat. But it was in late January three games into Irving return after two months out that Temple's value increased exponentially. Irving, as he's won't to do in asking to get away from LeBron James after winning a title and upsetting a Celtics locker room, declared the Nets better get better players. You know, except for the real players Irving mentioned like himself, Durant, DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and, yes, the guy with the six point four career scoring average.

He's a true brother to me, a true mentor. I always credit him for teaching me how to be a true professional in the game of basketball and in the NBA.

Bradley Beal

Who's also the guy NBA players are expected to name their leader once Chris Paul gives up the job and the guy who may have helped mold and sculpt more greats than Michelangelo.

"The greatest teammate I've ever had," Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal said in an interview during the summer Orlando games. "He's a true brother to me, a true mentor. I always credit him for teaching me how to be a true professional in the game of basketball and in the NBA."

Temple and Beal high five

Beal was the precocious hotshot from Florida who became attached to Temple in his rookie season in Washington, and a star was born. Temple has had that impact, if not quite in his own resume.

Where is that Bulls precocious rookie, Patrick Williams, from, by the way?

"He's one of the greatest defenders in the league," Beal added about Temple.

The Bulls had that, you say, in Kris Dunn, the big guard, free agent who signed with the Atlanta Hawks. Temple's also a 6-5 shooting guard known for his defense, not much of a three-point shooter, though he has his moments, and facing the December of his NBA career as the NBA plans to begin its 2020-21 season in December. So why, exactly, did the Bulls apparently use the bulk of this season's salary cap exception for a short term addition? Culture, good locker room? We hear that a lot. Though if you can impress Kyrie Irving perhaps that warrants a closer look.

Temple in action with Brooklyn

For one thing, the Bulls may begin to dress better since Temple is one of those guys, like, say, Michael Jordan, who believes it's important to represent yourself. He generally wears suits to and from games, perhaps, if anything, not to be confused with Russell Westbrook.

New Bulls basketball chief Arturas Karnisovas and coach Billy Donovan haven't revealed much about their philosophies of the game or strategies going forward other than the comfortable maxims about pace and speed and unselfish play and shooting, which pretty much sounds like the message from 29 other teams.

There's always talk about that locker room veteran, and the Bulls have added some of those in recent years in the likes of Otto Porter Jr., Thad Young and Tomas Satoransky.

And not that much more explanation is required, but Temple during last season was studying and preparing to take the LSAT exam for his legal career, taking weekly classes. He tutors players on defensive positioning. And real estate investing. He's the scion of pioneers, his grandfather denied in the South the chance to play major college basketball because he was Black and his father, Collis, who became the first Black to play basketball for LSU.

Temple drives with the ball

Temple is the guy most likely to be named in those polls by NBA executives a future executive. He's been in the player union's leadership program for executives and also mentioned often as the player most likely to be an NBA coach. When ESPN on one of their erudite talk programs, like Outside the Lines, needs a voice, the players' association generally recommends Temple. He's been a leader in both the NBA players' social activism and widespread community charitable activities.

"I don't want to suggest that he's unusual or extraordinary as compared to his peers, but frankly he is," Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts told CBS Sports last year.

So what's that got to do with making a three pointer?

Nothing and something.

Because the Bulls still are a young team seeking direction, and it also helps to learn from someone who can keep you from scoring. Beal during that interview last summer also said that Temple remains one of the most difficult players for him to score against.

The Bulls are, for the most part, a young team seeking direction. And credibility.

Temple has been a player often without portfolio, but who has the goods. He's one of the more respected people and players around the NBA, the sort of man who provides a team credibility. The Bulls are desperate for credibility as much as they are for an All-Star.

Perhaps this is the season for Zach LaVine. Perhaps even Coby White if the numbers keep popping. Maybe an Otto Porter Jr. reawakening? But especially after being left out of the 22-team NBA Orlando amusement park, the Bulls have even more need to be taken seriously by other NBA players. Temple helps provide that. With the occasional offensive burst as well.

Temple drive

The Nets the last few seasons have been one of the more proud overachievers, if not ultimately successful. Unexpected play from the likes of Dinwiddie, LeVert and Joe Harris have helped. Perhaps it's no coincidence a player like Temple was there last season, averaging a career high 10.3 points with 35 starts in 62 games and among team leaders in assist/turnover ratio and plus/minus. Plus a nice offensive run when Irving first went out, averaging 17.3 points in 12 games with three games scoring at least 22 points and making 16 threes in those three games. And defending the highest scoring opponent guard.

Temple doesn't represent the Bulls ascendency to the holy land of NBA excellence. But he may be a vital brick in the foundation of excellence, respect and professionalism that Karnisovas promises to infuse in the Bulls future.

Got a question for Sam?

Submit your question to Sam at asksam@bulls.com

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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