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BKQ&A: Garrett Temple

An interview with Brooklyn Nets guard Garrett Temple

Garrett Temple’s journey to Brooklyn covered a lot of ground. In his 10th NBA season, the 33-year-old swingman has played for nine NBA franchises — five in his first two pro seasons alone — and three G League teams. He’s also been to Summer League or training camp with three other franchises. And when the NBA began the 2011-12 season in a lockout, Temple headed abroad to play his third pro season in Italy.

Temple broke through in his fourth pro season, when he passed on a midseason chance to sign with the defending champion Miami Heat — who had cut him after training camp — to instead play for the 3-22 Washington Wizards.

“I really kind of bet on myself in that instance,” said Temple. “Me and (Miami coach Erik Spoelstra) talk about it to this day. Because I wanted to play and show teams I could actually play. If I would have went to Miami I wouldn’t have had a chance to get on the court.”

Since capitalizing on that opportunity, Temple has grown into a veteran respected around the league, and taken a leadership role as a vice president with the players’ union.

“I can actually talk to my team and figure out things from the ground up,” said Temple. “I think that’s the biggest thing. Also, being on the board, I can voice how great our offseason programs are for players so whenever you finish hooping you have something else to look forward to. I think that’s something that’s really not talked about enough in our union. Fans don’t really know what we try to provide for our players. Those things are good to be in the midst of it, instead of learning second-hand.”

BrooklynNets.com sat down with Temple to cover those topics and more in the BK Q&A.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: Your family has a significant legacy in Baton Rouge and at your alma mater LSU, where your father was the school’s first African-American varsity basketball player. How did his experiences influence you and your family?

GARRETT TEMPLE: Honestly, I’ve got to go back further even before him to my grandfather, his dad, who went to Southern University, the HBCU in Baton Rouge. Tried to go to LSU to get his Master’s in the late ‘40s, early ‘50s and was denied because of his skin color. They actually paid him, appropriated funds, to send him to Michigan State to get his Master’s degree, just because they didn’t want a black person at the school. Fast forward 18, 20 years later, my dad was a senior in high school and other schools were recruiting him. For my grandfather to have the forethought and not be upset at the school that denied him, for him to push my dad to go to LSU and be the first black basketball player just shows you the type of mindset he had, which obviously led to his son and to me and my older brothers and my little sister. We heard a lot of stories about his first week there. We’ve even heard a lot of stories about his senior year in high school when he and Jamie Spears, Britney Spears’ father, integrated Kentwood High together. His first year even going to school with white people. They went undefeated and won the state football championship, just like the movie Remember the Titans. A lot of stories about that. Black history, African-American history is very prominent and very important to me in my life because of what he went through. That’s probably why he’s my mentor and somebody I always talk about when Black History Month comes around.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: Your father went on to get his Master’s degree from LSU and remain involved in alumni activities, and both you and your brother Collis followed him to play there.

GT: LSU being the flagship institution in the state, he knew how much it was going to mean once he finished and once he got his Master’s for his relationship for his future kids or his kids that were just younger at the time. Again, I think my grandfather instilled that in him, understanding that you can go through a lot of things when you go to LSU but it’s going to be good for you and this is a means to an end, the resources you’re going to have afterwards because you’re going to stay in Louisiana. It’s going to really help you in terms of business endeavors and just relationships. I’ve been on LSU’s campus for school since second grade. They have a K through 12 school there, so I knew the campus like the back of my hand by the time I was eight years old, me and my older brothers riding our bikes through. Went to all the LSU football games. So go Tigers, got us a championship. But I think the relationships he’s built there and what people have seen him go through and continue to just be steadfast, he basically bleeds purple and gold, kind of the reason I ended up going there instead of Stanford or Baylor or Oregon. He really bleeds purple and gold and he’s LSU through and through.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: So were you always headed to LSU yourself?

GT: Most people would assume that I was already heading there. A lot of SEC schools didn’t even recruit me because of that. My oldest brother was six years older than me and he went to LSU. Didn’t visit any other schools. Was very highly touted, averaged 30 a game his senior year of high school. At LSU he was the ballboy when Chris Jackson and Shaquille (O’Neal) were there. I loved LSU, but I was the rebel, I wanted to check other things out. So I visited Oregon, little too far for me. Visited Baylor, but my dad convinced me they were probably going to be losing during the time I would be there because it would be a whole rebuild. Right before I visited Stanford, I ended up committing to LSU, partly because my pops went there, my brother went there, but also one of my best friends, Glen Davis, Tyrus Thomas, the next season Tasmin Mitchell was going to be coming there, so a lot of guys I grew up with, grew up playing with. So just having that bond, being able to try to win a championship with your friends was a definite pull for me.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: After you redshirted, you started 35 of 36 games as a freshman as LSU went to the Final Four. What are your memories of that experience?

GT: I’m getting chills just thinking about it. That was probably the best thing I’ve gone through athletically, opposed to getting my first call-up to the NBA maybe, because of the guys I was able to do that with. I wasn’t highly touted. Me and Tyrus redshirted the year before. So we had three freshmen starting, a sophomore in Glen Davis and a senior in Darrel Mitchell. We all knew each other since we were 12, 13, 14, 15 and to be able to go on that journey with your friends, be the underdog, beat a team like Duke with JJ Redick and Shelden Williams and then beat Texas after that with LaMarcus (Aldridge), Daniel Gibson, P.J. Tucker, I’m going to remember that run for the rest of my life. Being a freshman, playing all those minutes, you kind of take it for granted, and going that far you kind of take it for granted, but looking back now, that was a really special run.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: When you weren’t drafted in 2009, what did you think your basketball future was at that point?

GT: Probably different than a lot of guys. I was never highly touted. I was always kind of a second-tier, third-tier guy on teams that I played for. Even in high school, Big Baby (Glen Davis) was the All-American. At LSU we had Big Baby, Tyrus. My senior year, Marcus Thornton, all of these guys. Because I was never really a scorer. I really just did the intangible things. A glue guy type guy. So when I didn’t get drafted; I wasn’t expecting to get drafted. And I’ve always had the mentality of, OK, this didn’t work, what’s the next thing? What do I do next to try to still reach my goal? So right after the draft, a couple teams called, but Houston was the main team, so ended up going to Summer League with them. Figure out what the next steps were to try to make it to the NBA still. I still don’t know what the percentages of undrafted guys making teams are, making 10 years in the NBA or what-not, but my mindset wasn’t that. It was just, am I going to be able to play basketball for money? I was able to get to the D League and play. Didn’t really worry about sleeping in hotels or nothing. It was kind of like college again, but I actually made money and didn’t have to go to class. So I was enjoying it.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: How did you navigate those first two pro seasons, playing for five NBA teams and two D League teams?

GT: Constantly on the move. Living out of my suitcase. Played 30 games in the D League my first year, Rio Grande Valley. Was happy to be there, playing with guys. We were winning. It was a fun style of play, exactly like the Houston Rockets play now. Chris Finch, who is the assistant for New Orleans, was all about threes and layups. He really got my confidence in my shot very high and we were winning games. A group of guys I loved playing with. When I signed with Houston, I played every game. Rick Adelman had me playing back-up point guard. The interesting thing when I left after Houston, I signed with Sacramento while I was in Houston before I left to go back to the D League and my next game was against the Houston Rockets in a Sacramento uniform. Crazy. After that 10-day in Sacramento, I’m still living in the same suitcase, only have one suitcase, washing clothes, getting the trainers and the managers to wash my clothes for me. After Sacramento’s 10-day, went to San Antonio, stayed there for the rest of the season. And then my first start was my rookie year, ironically against Sacramento in Sacramento. I remember thinking, I’ve got Tim Duncan in the post, Antonio McDyess, I’m throwing a pick-and-pop pass to Manu Ginobili running the wing, it was kind of surreal. But it was great. The next year, still with San Antonio, got cut and went to one D League team that I was on before, Rio Grande Valley, got traded to another D League team, where one of my ex-college teammates was on. It’s just the grind though. It’s just another team. I think it helped me learn how to adapt even more to just learning new people, learning new coaching styles, new playing styles from other people. There was one time through the years where, I think when I got called up by the Milwaukee Bucks, then got let go, coach (Scott) Skiles told me exactly why; they have guys that are under guaranteed contract. The ownership didn’t want to pay a non-guaranteed guy. I went back to the D League, I want to say for two games, and I was kind of like, that’s the NBA politics. Got called up, finished the season with the Bobcats, so I was definitely living out of my suitcase the entire two years, but it was never, maybe a few nervous moments at the end of 10-days, but I cherished it. I didn’t take any of it for granted. I was never sad or mad because I got cut. It was just, on to the next. I think that helps me with my mindset now.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: After a season in Italy, you signed with Washington in December 2012 and stayed with the Wizards for four seasons. Why was that the time and place for you to establish yourself as an NBA player with a regular rotation spot?

GT: Opportunity, and also I think me and coach Randy Wittman, he’s a hard-nosed guy. He reminds me of my college coach John Brady. Defensive first mentality, wants a guy that plays hard, is coachable, plays the right way. I really credit him with my ability to really get back in the league, him and Ernie Grunfeld for giving me a shot, but Randy for giving me a chance to play, because I did want he wanted me to do. I was a defensive guy and he trusted me and let me make mistakes. Some coaches value certain things. He really valued what I brought to the table.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: Since leaving Washington, you’ve played for the Kings, Grizzlies, Clippers and Nets. What’s the key to thriving at this stage of your career?

GT: Just being professional. I can take things that I learned when I was younger, moving from team to team, and use it now in terms of learning how to adapt. Different coaching styles. Different players. Learning how to read and react to people. I think I have decent leadership qualities so my ability to know what buttons to press for different teammates, it’s helped me in this phase of my career.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: While you were with Sacramento, Stephon Clark was shot and killed by police in his grandmother’s backyard. How did you approach being involved in the community response to that incident?

GT: First of all, what has gone on in our society, in our country, over the world honestly but specifically our country, with police brutality against African Americans and minorities, I watched the documentary 13th from Netflix, and I read Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, and obviously I had known about Black history and the prison-industrial complex, incarceration rates, things of that nature, but when it happens in the city that you’re in; we had known about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, but when it happens in the city you’re in, you don’t want to ever just be talk. I can’t remember who actually, but I want to say either the year before that, me, Rudy (Gay) and DeMarcus (Cousins) had done some town halls. It was students talking to policemen about why do you all treat us like this and the policemen saying from their point of view, this is what they see on a traffic stop, and then for that to happen the next year, neither of those guys were on the team. So myself, Vince Carter, we talked a little. We went to a few town halls and just started talking about what would happen after they boycotted the game and kept people from coming in and protesting. (Kings owner) Vivek (Ranadive) talked to myself and Vince and we thought it would be best to come from him and I think what we did was pretty powerful. I think Matt Barnes had a rally a couple of days later that I attended. But just speaking out, using your platform to give voice to the voiceless, I think that’s very important in my opinion. It probably has a lot to do with what my dad went through, what my grandpa went through, in terms of African-American’s rights in this country. We’ve got a long way to go still, but when something like that happens in the city you’re in, and you have a chance to do something, I think you should.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: You are a vice president with the National Basketball Players Association. What drove you to get involved with the players’ union?

GT: My second year in D.C. started going to the meetings during All-Star and then during the summer time just to hear what was going on. I didn’t really have time or wasn’t paying attention when I was trying to make a team. But veteran guys telling me I should get more involved and then should run for the executive board. Honestly, I was thinking, this is probably a popularity contest. People don’t really know me. I just finished some 10-days. But guys around the league started noticing me, and the first time I ran Pau Gasol won, which was great for us, because we needed a foreigner on the board that could bring up issues that Europeans and other people from overseas go through. I ran again and I think it was against some pretty popular guys, C.J. McCollum and Rajon Rondo, and I was voted in. I think people understand my mindset and what I can bring to the table. Different perspective coming from the D League, being on so many different 10-day contracts, not being drafted. You could tell a person’s personality with how they play the game, so they probably see me as kind of an unselfish guy. But it’s been great, trying to figure out different things, what’s going on in the NBA right now, whether one-and-done rules or different aspects right now. We don’t have a CBA just yet coming up, but it’s been really good in terms of building relationships and trying to figure out things in a business aspect of the Association.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: You’ve had the opportunity to play for a lot of coaches and with a lot of teammates. Let’s run through a few for your quick impressions. Start with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich.

GT: The best ever. Loves wine. Really cares about his players. That’s how you know he really cares, that’s why people play the way they play for him.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: Larry Brown?

GT: I did a workout with Larry Brown. He wasn’t the coach at Charlotte when I was there, Paul Silas was. But I had two workouts with Larry Brown. (Michael Jordan) came to the second one. ‘Run with,’ anybody that knows Larry Brown will know what I mean when I say that. He’s very technical about your skill-set. A teacher. Larry Brown is a teacher. That’s the terminology I would say with LB.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: Doc Rivers?

GT: Doc. Motivator. Great motivator. Be a star in your role. That was his famous line. He tells you what he wants you to do, what he wants your role to be, and there’s no gray area. He’s a great motivator of his players.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: Tim Duncan?

GT: A machine. Coming in every day at practice, every shootaround, seeing him go to the exact same basket, do the same drill, day after day after day. I don’t care if it was after a back-to-back, just whatever. The exact same thing day after day. You understand why he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Arguably the best power forward to ever play this game.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: Tracy McGrady?

GT: T-Mac. He wasn’t playing when I was in Houston. He was hurt. Smooth. Real chill. Great personality. Down to earth, very down to earth guy. From what I’ve seen when I watched him, one of the most skilled cats over 6-8 I’ve ever seen in my life. Definitely top three most skilled guys over 6-8.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: Vince Carter?

GT: Vince is my guy. Vince is my dawg. Him and T-Mac are cousins too, which is crazy. Longevity obviously, but Vince is probably the most accessible star, superstar, that you’ll ever meet. Him and Penny Hardaway, who I got a chance to hang out with this summer playing golf, probably the most accessible superstars that I’ve ever been around. Down to earth. Haven’t seen him ever say no to an autograph. Just great, great people.

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BROOKLYNNETS.COM: What are some of your favorite movies of all time, and the last really good one you saw?

GT: Three favorite comedies, Life, Coming to America, Harlem Nights. Just Mercy is the best one I’ve seen recently, and it’s one of the most powerful movies I’ve ever seen. Just in general, favorite dramas, The Pursuit of Happyness.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: Favorite actors?

GT: Favorite actor is Will Smith, best actor ever is Denzel Washington.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: Favorite TV shows?

GT: Game of Thrones. Power. We were just talking about Entourage today. Sopranos. So many, it goes on. Game of Thrones probably No. 1.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: Favorite musicians?

GT: I’m an R&B guy, 90s R&B. Maybe early 2000s. So Joe is my favorite R&B guy. The best ever, Michael Jackson. Whitney Houston has the best voice ever in my opinion. J. Cole is my favorite rapper. Mellow, talks about relevant stuff. Has a great cadence. But 90s R&B, Boyz II Men, Brian McKnight, all of that stuff.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: How did you approach moving to Brooklyn and finding a new place to live?

GT: It was tough, because I’m at the point now where I don’t want to waste money and in New York, things are very expensive. Especially coming from Memphis where I had a spot. In L.A. I was in a hotel. I ended up buying something in an area where hopefully the value will go up. But it was difficult. The first spot I thought I was going to get fell through and I think I had three weeks before the beginning of the season so I had to scramble and find another spot. I was staying in Airbnbs the first couple weeks before training camp. But found a spot in a great neighborhood that me and my girl enjoy. Brooklyn’s a lot different than Manhattan, which is a good thing in my opinion. Being from Louisiana, obviously a lot slower. The neighborhood we’re in is a lot more chill, quiet, but you’re right across the water from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s good to have both sides.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: Your teammates have been calling you ‘Mr. President.’ Where did that nickname come from?

GT: I’m trying to figure out who started calling me ‘Prez.’ I want to say (Kyrie Irving). I think Ky started it. And then it just stuck. They don’t even say ‘Mr. President,’ they just say ‘Prez.’ When I realized it stuck is when Nic (Claxton) said it one time; ‘Prez, what have we got today?’ ‘Is he talking to me?’ I guess the fact I’m wearing suits to every game this year and looked at as one of the leaders of the team maybe those things come together gave me that nickname.

BROOKLYNNETS.COM: You are incredibly well-dressed. Is that something that’s always been important to you?

GT: I’ve always enjoyed dressing up, well not always, because when I was younger I used to hide my shoes because I didn’t want to go to church when I was like six years old. But my best friend and his family are clothiers. So once we started getting custom suits, because by the time I was in high school my arms were too long for just buying a suit off the rack, I was like, ‘OK, I like the way this fits. This is nice.’ I’m not really into fashion, so you’re not going to see me in the 2020 fashion stuff, but I enjoy dressing up in a nice suit. I’ve always enjoyed that over the last 15 years. And then I bought a few more this year, since I was going to wear one every game this year, so I like the way they fit. When they’re custom, they fit good so you don’t have to worry about them not being comfortable. You look good, feel good; feel good, play good, supposedly. So I’m going to keep wearing them.

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