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Garrett Temple: Leadership is an earned trait

Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

In an interview with Tom Dowd of the Nets, Garrett Temple offered a low-key assessment of why he’s among the most respected leaders in the NBA, on the court, in the locker room and as a vice president and member of the executive committee of the players union.

“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,” Garrett told Temple. “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.”

Indeed, the Nets have taken to the 33-year-old, who they refer to as “Mr. President” or “Prez,” attesting to his leadership skills. The Nets signed Temple this summer to a two-year room exception —near $10 million— with a team option in the second year. Kyrie Irving played a big role in the signing. Although they never played together, Irving respected both his defense and leadership. In fact, he agreed to sign with Brooklyn the same night the Nets got agreements from Irving, Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan.

So far, Temple has justified both his deal and Irving’s expectations. He’s played in 39 games, 27 as a starter while averaging career-bests in minutes at 28.5, scoring at 10.1 and rebounding at 3.5 per game. His shooting numbers 39/32/75 could use some improvement but Kenny Atkinson trusts his leadership and his game.

On Saturday night, Atkinson shook up his starting lineup by relegating Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert to the starting unit and moving Temple into the starting role at the 2. He told reporters that he likes how Temple plays on both ends.

“And I think Garrett Temple gives us that defensive stopper mentality in that first group. You can put him on the best player, and it doesn’t wear Spencer down early,” said the head coach.

Temple can also deal with the up’s and down’s of the NBA. He’s played for nine teams in 11 years, played on 10-day call-ups and had stints in the G League.

“I cherished it,” he said of his NBA career. “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.”

That experience also helped him with the NBPA, the players’ union. He’s been tabbed as the union’s next president once Chris Paul moves on.

“I think people understand my mindset and what I can bring to the table,” he told Dowd. “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.”

And one willing to take on issues outside the league and explain why.

“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.”

Indeed, Temple has participated in protests ... and worked with teammates on town halls bringing local youth and police together.

Temple is still getting acclimated to Brooklyn and New York. He knows that he could be cut at season’s end (although Irving included him in his famous list of core players.)

“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.”

Bottom line, though, is this: Temple’s leadership, while low-key, has been big as the Nets try to negotiate an injury-scorched season. Jared Dudley, who is decidedly not low key, may tell the media the Nets don’t have the “glue guys” or “culture setters” they did last season, but Temple’s teammates may very well disagree. And unlike Dudley, he’s contributing on the court as well as in the locker room.