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A week in the life of Raptors’ Garrett Temple: Candle-making, mentoring and family time

TORONTO — In his 14th year in the , should have seen and done a little bit of everything by now. On and off the court, that reasoning has been punctured this season.

Take his game on March 23 in Washington. His , the 13th team he has played for in 14 different stops, was beset by injuries and absences. The Raptors didn’t have much depth in the frontcourt to begin with, and lost starter to a torn ligament in his pinky finger near the start of March and third-stringer because of undisclosed personal reasons — at that point — for two straight games. Other bigger options to support such as and were also injured, leaving coach Darko Rajaković with options who were either hopelessly inexperienced, relatively short or physically overmatched.

Against the , Temple, listed at 6-foot-5, 195 pounds, stepped in at centre.

“I told him ‘Garrett you’re gonna do something you never did in your life. You’re gonna be our backup five,’” Raptors coach Darko Rajaković said. “And he said ‘All right, Coach, let’s go.’”

“Never” turned out to be a bit strong.

“I think maybe (I played centre in) elementary school, like second or third grade,” the 37-year-old Temple said.

The Raptors lost that game, as they had lost the previous nine. The possibility of a season like this is one of the reasons the Raptors signed Temple, who has played his most games with the Wizards and , not necessarily known for their organizational stability over the last two decades. Temple has seen some things, and would be able to steer the Raptors’ younger players through choppy waters, should they present themselves.

They have. As he navigated the waning days of a season gone awry, a new type of controversy, a young family and a decision about his future, Temple was kind enough to check in daily with The Athletic throughout a Raptors homestand.

Monday, March 25

When he played for Penn State 13 seasons ago, Drew Jones, now a Raptors assistant coach, measured in at 6-foot-10 and 245 pounds. Jones is one of the coaches who helps work Temple out before games, with the two tallying makes and stops.

On Temple’s last rep, he stepped back and launched a 3-pointer as he faded behind the baseline. Nothing but net, a very pretty thing.

“S—, I thought I got that last one,” Jones yelled as Temple exited the court, thanking his coaches.

“That’s all the space I need,” Temple responded.

NBA players are incredibly skilled. Temple hit all sorts of shots, like that one or a Dirk Nowitzki-style one-legged jumper, that he would rarely attempt in a game.

Before he left the court in his pregame workout, which routinely ends about two hours before tip, Temple jumped up on a black pad that not only measures how high he goes, but also the dip before he propels himself. This is baseline testing the Raptors do regularly, and it is especially important for Temple now: After going more than a month in between appearances, Temple played 29 total minutes against and Washington on back-to-back nights. Other than some tightness in his calf, he felt OK. Still, he worked in some extra recuperative time in between games.

Not much changes if he thinks he is going to play versus if he is likely to stay on the bench — except for his pregame meal. If he does not expect to play, he eats a full meal. If he thinks he is getting minutes, he sticks to lighter fare, like a peanut butter and jam sandwich and some fruit.

Temple played 16 minutes in a loss to the , logging four assists and three rebounds. The game is largely an afterthought. About 90 minutes before tip-off, ESPN reported regarding two games he left early. Coincidentally, the locker room opened to the media a moment after the report came out, and it was busier than normal, with several Raptors looking at their phones, trying to understand the very modern story.

Temple has been a vice-president of the National Basketball Players Association since 2017, and is also the Raptors’ representative. He started going to PA meetings early in his career — “a lot of people, even people that are in the league … don’t realize our union (comprises) every player” — to become more aware of the league’s business side, what players are entitled to and understanding his options for retirement. His , encouraging him to get involved.

Regarding the Porter situation, Temple reached out to active executive director of the NBPA Andre Iguodala and legal counsel Ron Klempner to get as much information as he could.

Temple had one-on-one conversations with teammates that night and later in the week, but allowed the coaching staff and front office to address the group as a whole. He reached out to Porter at the end of the week on Easter Sunday, as both are Christians. Temple attends chapel before every game. He told Porter he was praying for him and wished him a happy holiday, and got the same message in return. When talking to the media after the Nets game, he made it clear Porter is still a member of the Raptors and the NBPA, and that he deserves due process.

His focus, largely, remained on the other players in his locker room.

“This is something new,” Temple said. “I’ve never been involved in it, so that probably means nobody else on the team has ever been involved in it in this league.”

Before meeting Garrett Temple, Kara McCullough was crowned Miss USA in 2017. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Tuesday, March 26

This is the story of how Temple thought he was too good for — or at least not compatible with — Miss USA, Kára McCullough, before he had even met her.

After playing 51 games with five teams in the first two seasons of his NBA career and then heading to Italy for the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, Temple caught on with the Wizards. He played four years in D.C. and developed a relationship with a local family, affectionately calling the matriarch, Deena, his auntie. Near the end of his time in Washington, she suggested he reach out to McCullough, who was running for Miss D.C.

“I was like… ‘Pageant girls, I’m not really into,’” Temple said.

A year passed, and Deena kept pushing the matter. By then, Temple was in Sacramento and McCullough was Miss USA, finishing in the top 10 of the Miss Universe contest. Deena told Temple that in addition to being in pageants, McCullough was also a nuclear scientist. That got Temple’s attention.

“So I was like, ‘OK well, how do you know her?’” Temple continued. “’Well, I don’t really know her. I just know of her. And I know that you have a publicist, right? She has a publicist. Y’all can link up.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t have a publicist and I’m not really trying to get with anybody that has a publicist.’”

Temple ultimately reached out over Instagram and got nowhere. McCullough said the only way she would have a conversation with him was if Temple donated to her non-profit organization encouraging kids’ participation in science. A donation was made, but they still hadn’t met.

In May 2018, McCullough was passing on the Miss USA title in a ceremony in Shreveport, LA. After his final of two seasons in Sacramento, Temple was home in Baton Rouge.

“I told my mom about her,” Temple said. “She was like, ‘Well, you need to drive up to Shreveport.’ I was like, ‘I do, huh?’”

Temple made the nearly four-hour trip, and they have been together ever since. The couple married in 2020 and have two children: Garrett II, nicknamed “Two,” who is 3, and daughter Verity, who is 17 months.

“He just got lucky,” said Temple’s long-time friend, guard , who shared a room with Temple at a high school all-star game in 2004. “Lucky b——-. He’s overachieved.”

Temple is the sixth-oldest player in the NBA this year, with Lowry one of the five who is older. On the surface, it would have made sense for Temple to retire before this year. He played his last two years in New Orleans, essentially his hometown team. The Raptors offered him a roster spot with the understanding that he would be more of a mentor than a rotation option. Also, he took his LSAT in 2020, and has two more years to use his results to apply to law schools. He would have to retake the test if he waited longer.

Temple chose to sign with the Raptors. There were lots of reasons: the chance to live in a new city while his kids are still young, an opportunity to develop more connections in a new organization, and the veteran’s minimum for a player of Temple’s tenure being $3.2 million. Most crucially, Temple remembered the advice of former teammates and mentors like Wesley Johnson, Damon Stoudamire, Drew Gooden, Grant Hill and Vince Carter: Play as long as you can. When you are out of the league, they said, he would miss it.

He does not know about next year. Playing for a first-time head coach has been an experience he values, and has made him think about coaching. He could start down a path leading him to the front office. He could do more work with the PA. He could apply to law school. He could keep playing.

“I’m interested in a lot of different things, which is a gift and a curse,” Temple said. “If only one door was open, it’d be a little easier.”

It is not a one-person decision. When practice wound down, Temple was on the phone with McCullough. The couple planned a dinner at Joey at Sherway Garden, a mall on the West side of Toronto, to talk about the future that evening.

McCullough has a paid board position for a private equity firm at an energy company, but has not worked full-time since the birth of Garrett II. Before becoming Miss USA, she worked as an emergency preparedness specialist for the Nuclear Regulatory Committee. She continues to work with her nonprofits, Science and Exploration for Kids as well as Science and Engineering for Girls. She is also getting to enjoy more time with her children than she would have if she were busier with work.

She could be busier, though.

“She’s having a lot of grace with this season that she’s in right now,” Temple said. “We’ve talked about it. A lot of what I do is going to be predicated on my wife and my kids and the position that they’re in and where we are and things of that nature. So, the options that we talked about, a lot of those choices are going to come down to the options that she has.”

Wednesday, March 27

At times, Temple seems like the mayor of the NBA. He estimated he shakes hands with about 20 people from the opposing organization per game on average. Between all of his stops and his work with the PA, you don’t need six leaps to get from Temple to anybody else in the league.

“He’s an unbelievable guy, high character, good family,” new teammate Kelly Olynyk adds. “He’s been in this league a long time. He’s kind of been up in it, down in it, 10-days, in and out. … And he’s just a good person to be around. He’s got that charisma and that leadership to him.”

Before a game against the , which ended up being the Raptors’ worst loss at home in franchise history, Temple shot at his normal time. As has been the case all season long, rookie worked out at the same time. There is generally no interplay between the two then, but there is plenty at other times. Their locker room stalls are next to each other, and they usually sit beside each other on the team plane.

Dick said the most enduring words Temple has offered him this year have been about the ups and downs of the NBA season. That has resonated with Dick, who played poorly enough to start the season that he was sent down to  Raptors 905 of the G League. He did not play well at that level, only regaining a rotation spot when the Raptors traded and , essentially ending their playoff aspirations in the middle of the season.

Since then, Dick has been an elite shooter from the corners.

“He’s probably had one of the biggest transformations I’ve seen from a rookie,” Temple said.

The relationship started at training camp in Vancouver. After a team dinner, the two went out for gelato. It was their first one-on-one conversation.

Dick joked Temple is like a big brother to him, even though the 17-year age gap means he could be more of a father figure. Dick credited Temple with reining him in, letting him know when he could let out his naturally light personality, and when he needed to be serious for the sake of the team.

“One thing that has not changed is his lack of maturity,” Temple said. “He’s just a clown and a big kid. It’s great because keeping that demeanour and that zeal for life is great.”

“It just goes to show the kind of person and kind of player he is,” Dick said of Temple playing centre. He can just fill in anywhere. … He’s going to do anything that he’s asked.”

Dick scored a career-high 23 points against the Knicks, but Temple might have been the best Raptor overall, with 15 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals.

He did a bit of everything against the Knicks: hit a step-back 3, found Dick in the pick-and-roll, guarded everyone from to . He was overmatched on some occasions, as the Raptors are dreadfully undermanned, playing without Poeltl, Barnes, and . Temple hangs in there better than most.

“It’s great to be able to play with the guys and not be just somebody talking on the side,” Temple said. “To be able to show things that we want to see done, whether it be positive, and then make mistakes and to tell guys to, ‘Go ahead, get on me when I make a mistake as well.’ But just to play basketball in a competitive setting in the league, it’s a gift.”

Thursday, March 28

The Raptors had three days in between the Knicks game and their next, against Philadelphia on Sunday, which meant Thursday was a “blackout” day. There are no team responsibilities on those days.

Temple said his wife noticed how there have been longer stretches at home this season than most. That is in part because of the In-Season Tournament, which made it necessary for teams to hit the road and hop back home quickly in November. That means longer uninterrupted stretches, both on the road and at home, in the final four-plus months of the year.

It worked out for Temple, who gets into a routine helping his kids get on with their day. Garrett II attends a Montessori school. On Thursday, McCullough was with Garrett II’s class for a trip and Garrett was with Verity, but sometimes it is the other way around. Early in the following week, the two Garretts went to the CN Tower for their first trip. There was another trip to Ripley’s Aquarium, which is Garrett II’s favourite place in the city.

With no shootaround on Wednesday, Garrett took Verity to the park, close to their home. Verity walked the entire way for the first time, with the opportunity to push the wheels of her stroller a big draw. They went to a different park on Thursday, a longer walk, so Verity stayed in the stroller. They got to the park later in the day than on Wednesday.

“There were probably four different caregivers with about three or four kids each, all of them around my daughter’s age, around a year to two years old,” Temple said. “And it was great to see them interacting.”

A pitstop at SanRemo Bakery broke up the time at the park and going home, where, after a snack, both Garrett and Verity napped. In the evening, a double date: Garrett and Kára go out with Olynyk and his wife, Jackie.

The activity? A classic NBA hot spot: a candle-making class.

“My wife loves doing activities and events,” Olynyk said. “She lives for that stuff.”

Jackie’s friend runs Kandl Artistique, a luxury candle store that runs classes for first-time candlers, who can pick their own vessels and scents. The Olynyks got four spots in a class, and the Raptors centre had no question about who he would ask. While Kelly was raised in Toronto, he has only been back since the February deadline, when the Raptors traded for him.

“Me and my wife are going. Out of this (group), Garrett might be the only other person married on this team,” Olynyk said.

“It was really dope, about an hour and a half,” Temple said. “Really nice. I made a nice candle.”

The verdict upon burning it three nights later?

“It may be a little too cologne-y, perfume-y,” Temple said. “Something you’d put on a person instead of in a house.”

Garrett Temple is also an avid golfer in his spare time. (Bryan Steffy/Getty Images for PGD Global via Getty Images)

Friday, March 29

Temple has ended almost every gameday shootaround and off-day practice the same way this year: with a shooting competition. At the beginning of the season, Temple faced off against and . Flynn was traded in December, and eventually subbed in when he was traded to the team in January. Schröder was traded away in February, leaving it as a two-man competition.

Coaches get involved, and the trash-talking (and self-loathing after misses) is ample. In particular, Schröder was a pot-stirrer, throwing balls in the air to get in the line of vision of his opponents.

In the competition, each player must hit five shots from five different spots beyond the 3-point arc: the two corners, two spots just above the break and at the top of the key. When you miss, you stay where you are and your opponents get their turn. After you’ve made the 25 total shots, you have to hit five in a row — one from each spot. If you miss, you go back to the first spot. The game ends when a player hits those final five shots consecutively.

On a young team, this has been Temple’s time to hang out with the veterans. In the middle of Friday’s competition after practice, Brown asked one media member if he said on a podcast he could shoot better from 3-point range than he could. (It was the media member’s co-host, for the record.) The Toronto stop hasn’t been Brown’s best, and has hung around 31 percent from deep as a Raptor.

With each miss in the competition, Brown seemed especially agitated. Temple ends up winning. Afterward, Temple is asked if the media has successfully gotten in Brown’s head.

“Maybe. We’ll see,” Temple said. “I’m gonna bring it up next time.”

Mind games, baby.

Saturday, March 30

This Raptors season has stunk.

Temple called it the craziest of his career. There have been multiple trades, a re-setting of goals and plenty of losses. The off-court stuff, from the trades to the Knicks-Raptors lawsuit to the Porter news, have only complicated matters.

Worst of all, as the Raptors were losing games by the handful in March, Barrett and Quickley both left the team because of the deaths of family members. Barrett’s brother died on March 14, while Quickley’s uncle died a few days later.

After nearly two weeks away from the team, Barrett returned on Monday, tip-toeing through the locker room as the news of the Porter investigation circulated. Quickley came back later that evening.

“It’s great to just see their faces,” Temple said. “I can imagine, it’s probably therapy for them, a certain type of therapy for them to be back around the guys, joking around, smiling and playing the game they love.”

A lot has gone wrong for the Raptors this year, but little of that has to do with Temple’s contributions. At the end of the month, Temple had played the 21st-most minutes for this year’s Raptors, fewer than six players who are no longer on the team.

The off-court issues haven’t been the sort you can blame on chemistry. Last year’s 41-41 team had more internal issues than this one, stuck at 23 wins. How, then, can Temple assess himself? There are no meaningful stats to point to, nor does the record reflect on him.

“I need to have a little more patience,” Temple said. “Just in the middle of the season, after the trades, just having some more grace for myself and for everybody. … I want to get (things) done. I feel kind of like an old-school hard-ass. Sometimes you need to give grace. You need to ask for grace.”

When possible, Temple watches video of opponents the night before a game to scout. Other than that, after practice, Saturday was quiet. There isn’t a ton of time for watching other basketball during the season, but Temple monitored the men’s tournament to see how Alabama performed. The Crimson Tide’s assistant coach Ryan Pannone was an assistant with the in 2022-23, and worked with Temple closely. They advanced to the Final Four with a win over Clemson.

Additionally, Temple and McCullough are watching “Suits” on Netflix.

“Shot in Toronto,” Temple said with prideful recognition.

Sometimes, you just have to turn your head off and watch the pretty people. NBA players and Miss Universe participants/accomplished scientists: They’re just like us.

Sunday, March 31

When Garrett II doesn’t have school the next day, McCullough brings the kids to Raptors games. Tomorrow is Easter Monday.

“It’s just great to see them before the game, hug them, give them a kiss,” Temple said. “Them getting to see daddy in a uniform and shooting the ball, see the smile on their face — it’s great. … Just to have them around the game, it makes them excited about sports in general. I think you can learn so many life skills from playing a sport.”

The Raptors played the 76ers, pitting Temple against Lowry. Temple is planning to stick around Toronto after the season ends so Garrett II can stay in school a bit longer Plus, he wants to get some time playing golf in Toronto. That is another thing Temple and Lowry (and Brown, for that matter, who played a round with Temple in Houston earlier in the winter) have in common.

“Whoever wants to invite me to their nice, private course, let me know,” Temple said. “I’m a junkie. I’ll go anywhere.”

Eventually, Temple and his family will go back to Baton Rouge. They bought a house built in the 1990s two years ago. They lived in it for a year to see what they wanted to change. They decided on a gut renovation.

Temple didn’t make as big of an impact on this game as he made in the other two this week. He played nine minutes, scoring two points, in the loss. He didn’t play in the second half.

It was the 33rd time Temple played in an NBA game against Lowry, three ahead of Jeff Teague, making his friend his most common opponent. Depending on what Temple decides, and the value the league places on him this offseason, this could be the last time they play each other. (Lowry also will be a free agent.) Temple has an 8-25 record against Lowry now, with the 76ers guard adding he beats Temple in golf, too.

“Garrett, he’s like the chameleon,” Lowry said. “He can do everything. He can play golf. He can do politics. He can play basketball. He can do everything. But that’s just how great of a man he is. … We’re gonna be friends long after this basketball thing.”

This was Temple’s 737th game in the NBA. After it, the Raptors had eight left. That could be it for Temple, or he could find a way to fit in for another year.

The future is unknown, but Temple understands what is behind him. He has had an excellent journeyman’s career, with emphasis on “journey.” That isn’t what kids aspire to, though. Most want to be the absolute best at their craft.

What would Temple have thought about how his career has turned out when he first entered the league, trying to crack the roster after going undrafted?

“I would have got on my knees and thanked God, you know what I’m saying?” Temple said. “I’d have been content. I’d have been excited to get started.”