Aussies in NBA: Ingles on Exum, Rio and expectations in Utah

Joe Ingles is entering his third NBA season and he finally has the one thing he always wanted from the Utah Jazz. But can you guess what it is?

It isn’t a contending team. It isn’t a healthy supporting cast. It isn’t even a healthy Dante Exum by his side or anything related to his homeland. Out of ideas?

The Utah Jazz acquired three 30-somethings during the offseason, and this is what seemed to excite Ingles the most last week. See, Aussie Joe is no longer the old man of Utah, and he is very happy about it.

“I’m not the oldest, which is a great start. I’m glad they brought some old guys in to be older than me,” Ingles said.

Ingles’ comments are obviously said in jest, as are mine, but the jovial nature of Australia’s 10th NBA player is what comes shining though from his media availability. There is no sign of the lofty expectations hanging over Ingles and his franchise. Rather, just the same old larrikin from South Australia.

Utah is expected to finally climb into the playoffs, meaning competition for minutes at Ingles’ position will be fierce. While new additions Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw might allow Ingles to continue dreaming about his glory days, both pose a clear and present danger to his NBA mortality. A concern that Ingles doesn’t seem the slightest bit worried about.

“Even playing the handful of pickup games I’ve played, the leadership of the guys that have come in, and even the leadership of the guys who were here last year. In being more vocal, seeing Dante out there after his knee, how good he looks. Just the whole feel around the group is pretty exciting.

“It’s an exciting group. The depth is obviously something that we needed to add, and we did. The Jazz did a great job of doing that. I think we are all just ready to get out there and play now.”

What else did we learn from the Utah Jazz media day?

Dante Exum and Joe Ingles are basketball soul mates

This isn’t actually anything new, but the relationship between Australian basketball’s odd couple keeps delivering in the weirdest ways.

Whether it was the subtle wisecracks about Exum not being old enough to drink coffee, public banter sessions where pimple insults are exchanged for bald shaming, or loaded comments about hairstyles, there were nuggets of humour littered all over the Jazz training facility.

The buddy cop movie that is the Ingles-Exum relationship is evolving, and it is time for the young rookie to step up. Well, according to Ingles anyway. “I haven’t seen him today,” Ingles quipped back with when asked about Exum’s whereabouts during media day.

I do always get asked (about Exum) but I’m not answering. After this one (interview), this is my last Dante question and then I’m throwing in the Dante towel. He’s 21 now; it’s his third year.”

Just like everything coming from the mouth of Ingles, there is an undertone of sarcasm in every syllable; Exum remains in good hands. When Ingles was asked whether he will continue to babysit his younger countryman, he sounded willing to continue the mentorship, although Exum’s ranking in the Ingles household is now under threat.

“I probably still will, but we’ve got two kids of our own now so Dante’s the third child. He’s the left out child now.”

Putting all one-liners to the side, Ingles was very complimentary when it came to Exum’s progress since his ACL injury.

“Dante looks good. He obviously worked hard. He did everything he had to do to get back this year. Obviously playing in the Olympics was a big part of that. To stay here and do his rehab. He looks good; he played well in the pickup games and obviously will start now with the real stuff.”

The Olympic experience was bitter sweet

Ingles was happy to open up about the Rio Olympics, and there was a clear sense of disappointment despite everything the Boomers accomplished.

“The Olympics were awesome. Disappointing finish for us with the way we went out in the last couple of games.

“Obviously our goal was to go there and win a medal. The first half of the tournament I think we were right on track. We obviously lost to Serbia in the semifinal, which was disappointing. Then to go down by a point against Spain was heartbreaking.

“To play against the best countries in the world, the best players in the world, and to do it with our team who is like a big family is an unbelievable experience.”

When pushed on whether the Boomers should have collected a maiden Olympic medal, Ingles’ response was definitive.

100 percent - we should have medalled.”

While finishing on the podium was the Boomers’ major focus heading into Rio, it was not their only objective.

“Our other goal was to make basketball popular in Australia again. I think we did a really good job of that. People were talking about it. We were one of the most watched teams from the Australian standpoint. And when we got back everyone was talking about it.

“The best thing I heard getting back to the airport was families coming up to us and telling us that their kids have never played basketball until watching our team. That was our other goal, and we obviously achieved that.”

Joe Ingles, the media day blood hound

In the space of two minutes, Ingles managed to launch banter laden, backhanded compliments towards Alec Burks, Derrick Favors, Trey Lyles, Chris Johnson and Quin Snyder. Aw Joe, you are still an Aussie rascal. We love it!

The Jazz make their pre-season debut against the Portland Trailblazers tomorrow morning.