Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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How to stay sane at the NBA trade deadline, according to ‘Who He Play For?’ Hall of Famer Garrett Temple

On the day of the 2019 NBA trade deadline, Garrett Temple, then of the Memphis Grizzlies, had a feeling he might be moved. There were “rumblings” about it, he says.

From his agent?

“No, no, no,” Temple says. “Just on HoopsHype.”

The Grizzlies had a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder that night. In the afternoon, Temple was asleep in his hotel room when he got a call from Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace, with whom he had a “great relationship,” he says. 

“He was like, ‘You have a one-way trip to Los Angeles, sunny Los Angeles, California,'” Temple says. “And I was like, ‘Damn, the taxes! I just left Sacramento.'”

Temple bursts out laughing, then continues: “Nah, but it was great, I was able to get on a playoff team and we pushed Golden State to six.” Temple was only a Clipper for a few months, but it was a good time. He liked playing for coach Doc Rivers.

The veteran guard was not exactly scarred by that experience, but with Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline approaching, he knows that this time of year can be challenging for players. “When you’re young, it’s tough,” he says. It can be stressful to see your name in trade rumors, and for those who do get traded midseason, it can feel like your whole life has been turned upside down. In 2017, the New Orleans Pelicans acquired star big man DeMarcus Cousins, sending sharpshooter Buddy Hield to Sacramento less than four months into his rookie season. When Hield joined the Kings, “he had that wide-eyed look,” Temple says.

Temple didn’t have a preexisting relationship with Hield, but struck up a conversation. His message: “You live in the gym, you shoot the piss out the ball, you’re going to be in this league for a long time. Just understand they had a chance to get the best center in the NBA, that’s what that was. But you’re going to make a lot of money on this team, you’re going to make a lot of money in your career, just keep doing what you’re doing, keep that same mindset.”

Sometimes, a team can trade you and it can have very little to do with you — maybe a teammate is on the block, and you wind up in the deal to satisfy the collective bargaining agreement’s salary-matching rules. Regardless of the specifics of the situation, Temple’s advice is always essentially about how you frame it: Instead of thinking somebody traded me, think somebody wanted me.

The glass-half-full approach has helped Temple, who went undrafted out of LSU in 2009, navigate a 15-year professional career that has included one year in Italy, stints with three G League teams, nine 10-day contracts and three trades. He has played for 12 NBA teamsCharlotte Hornets guard Ish Smith, who has played for 13, is the only player in history to have him beat — and with 238 NBA teammates. Loyal viewers of “Inside The NBA” know Temple as the guy who stumps Charles Barkley year after year on “Who He Play For?,” the game show segment in which the TNT analyst is shown headshots of players and guesses the teams that currently employ them. Temple’s face has appeared nine times.

“I love the fact that Shaquille [O’Neal] always shouts on LSU when I get on there,” Temple, now a member of the Toronto Raptors, says. “But nah, it’s all in great fun. I love it.”

Temple used to watch TNT’s postgame show “all the time, and I’ve seen myself on there a few times, like, live,” he says. Now that he has two young children, he is usually asleep by that time.

Asked if he’d ever seen Barkley guess his team correctly, Temple says: “I haven’t. Has he got it right before?”

The first time Temple appeared on “Who He Play For?,” in 2017, Barkley correctly guessed that he played for the Kings. Barkley has gotten it wrong every time since.

At a shootaround, Temple looks at a list of his appearances on the segment. In 2018, when Temple played for the Grizzlies, Barkley went with the Hawks. A week later, when host Ernie Johnson quizzed Barkley on the same five players, Barkley guessed that Temple played for the Nets.

“Oh, wow,” Temple says. “And then I went to the Nets after that. Wow.”

In 2019, when he was playing for the Nets, Barkley guessed Pistons. In 2020, Temple played for the Bulls and, when Barkley guessed Hornets, Temple was inducted into the “Who He Play For?” Hall of Fame, alongside Aaron Gray, Alan Henderson and current Pelicans coach Willie Green.

In 2021 and 2022, when Temple played for Green’s Pelicans, Barkley guessed Hawks and Wizards. Last October, Barkley tried Pistons again. At the In-Season Tournament semifinals, “Inside the NBA” welcomed ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith for special edition of “Who He Play For?,” and, when Temple appeared, Smith passed it off to Barkley, who said, “New Jersey Nets.” No one called Barkley out for misidentifying where the Nets currently play, and when it was revealed that Temple plays for the Raptors, Barkley said, “Now, why would I watch the Toronto Raptors play?”

“That’s what they do,” Temple says. “It’s great entertainment. And I love ’em for it. It’s the funniest show on TV.”

At last season’s All-Star weekend, Temple ran into Barkley. “We talked about it,” he says. The chat was friendly. TNT’s Jared Greenberg took a photo of them; they’re both smiling, and Temple is holding his son.   

Charles Barkley and Garrett Temple

Jared Greenberg

In an alternate universe, maybe Temple could have spent his entire career with one team, like the recently retired Udonis Haslem. He considers it a badge of honor though, that so many different teams have wanted him around. Having seen how things work all around the league, he has a valuable perspective.

“A lot of times when we go out to eat, I’m talking to him about, ‘Is this the same way on this [other] team or is it just in Toronto?’ or whatnot,” Raptors guard Gradey Dick says. “And he has great advice for, really, everything.”

Temple is “the perfect vet,” Dick says. He took the rookie under his wing as soon as they met. “And he’s been through everything, so it’s a great mind to use.” When Dick went to the G League on assignment, Temple told him to keep an open mind, give it everything he has and show the coaching staff that he wants to learn and develop. 

“Garrett Temple is one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around,” Toronto coach Darko Rajakovic says. “He’s trying to help guys, to educate them on what this league is.”

Ten years ago, Otto Porter Jr. was a rookie with the Wizards and Temple was his vet. (Temple, 37, is the sixth-oldest player in the NBA. Taj Gibson, signed to a 10-day contract with the Knicks, recently bumped him down from fifth-oldest.)

“People used to get us mixed up all the time because we’re light-skinned, we dress decent,” Porter, reunited with Temple in Toronto, says. “I had to sign a couple of Garrett Temple [autographs]. But it’s funny, literally when I first came in, that’s somebody who I was looking up to, trying to be professional.”

Porter was also featured on “Who He Play For?” this season. It was during the ESPN/TNT crossover, and Smith immediately said Toronto when his face popped up. “Stephen A., that’s my guy,” Porter says. “He knows.” 

Is Porter offended that he was included in the segment?

“F— no,” he says. “No, I’m not sensitive like that.”

Temple says that the trade deadline generally doesn’t mess with vets like Porter and himself. At the same time, “there’s always a chance that you can get traded.” Uncomfortable as that fact may be, “we have to keep it in perspective. We’re making a lot of money, we’re going to be able to provide for our families for a long time. It comes with the territory.” 

The reality is that there is no guarantee that Temple will be on the Raptors’ roster at the end of the week. But in the event that he’s traded and TNT decides to include him in a post-deadline edition of “Who He Play For?,” he’ll be cool with it.

“If I’m on “Who He Play For?,” that means I’m still in the NBA,” Temple says. “And I’m an undrafted guy that had to grind his way here, so I cherish every moment.”

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