WASHINGTON -- Garrett Temple's plan for Christmas was probably more thoughtful than yours. With his Reno Bighorns scheduled for zero games between December 22 and 28, Temple did what many of us wish we could: fly home to Louisiana and surprise his family. Temple arrived on the 22nd and settled in. His family was thrilled to see him and all was well.
Then, an unexpected phone call changed things. It was the Wizards, and they wanted him to report to D.C. on Christmas day for practice.
Suddenly, Temple had new Christmas plans.
"I made sure to give my little sister her gift and my family their gifts on the 23rd," he said Friday. "I was able to see them for two days, which was a great Christmas gift."
The Wizards are glad Temple's schedule was flexible. In just his second game, Temple was a life-saver, providing excellent defense and solid offensive poise in the Wizards' 105-97 win over the Orlando Magic. He didn't score the most points, nor did he make the most spectacular plays, but the Wizards would have been blown out again without him.
"Garrett don't know half of what we're doing," Randy Wittman said. "I'm throwing him out there to the wolves, and I couldn't be more proud of him."
You had to look carefully to see Temple's impact, but it was there. When Jameer Nelson went off for 14 first-quarter points, Wittman turned to Temple and gave him the tough assignment. Temple's instructions? Fight over screens, pressure Nelson at the point of attack and don't let him get any clean perimeter looks. He carried out those orders perfectly, helping to hold Nelson to just two points the rest of the night.
Later, it was J.J. Redick that couldn't miss. Wittman's solution? Slide Temple over and have him run Redick off the three-point line. Redick didn't get nearly as many clean looks and only padded his stats by the end of the game.
"When a guy got hot, I tended to say, 'Garrett, you go guard him,'" Wittman said.
It wasn't just Temple's defense, though. Throughout the season, Wittman has pleaded with his guards to get the ball up quickly off missed shots. With the Wizards' half-court offense a disaster, the Wizards must cheat the system and get the ball ahead for early offense while the defense is still setting up. This has been a problem, though, for every other guy that has played the point guard position this season.
But for one night, it wasn't with Temple. Wittman gave him free reign to probe the defense, and he found his big men with early post-ups that they converted into points. It's no accident that Nene, Emeka Okafor and Kevin Seraphin all put up great numbers on Friday.
"Garrett's more so of a point guard. He sees the floor, wants to pass first and get guys open, but at the same time, he can knock down the shot," Bradley Beal said. "He gets everybody involved, and he's one of our best defenders."
Obviously, Wizards fans have been here before with D-League call-ups. With the exception of Cartier Martin, each one of these players have either fizzled out or haven't been retained after the season. Skepticism of Temple is very much justified until he can put together multiple strong games.
But for one night, Temple Of Doom was the savior. With the Wizards at 4-23, they'll take it.