Most basketball players seem to hit their developmental ceiling as they reach the tail end of their 20s. Joe Ingles, who hits his 30th this October, doesn't quite agree. The Boomers swingman feels like he can rise to the challenge, and get even better.
Talking to Fox Sports Australia's Olgun Uluc, Ingles shared how the Jazz --more specifically, head coach Quin Snyder, and assistant coach, Zach Guthrie-- turned things around for him, basketball-wise.
“You know, I was talking to (my wife) Renae about it the other day,” Ingles said.
“A lot of (my improvement) comes down to Quin ‘re-finding’ my enjoyment in it. I think in Europe, I lost that a little bit. I always had it with the Australian team, that was never a question but those last couple of years in Europe, it was slowly fading.
“It took Quin to give me a lifeline after the Clippers and really support me and help me, and care. The time and effort he put in originally, then when Zach came on board. I owe those guys a lot.”
Guthrie, who built a steadfast relationship with Ingles, holds a sterling reputation in the player development area. The 29 year-old Guthrie was recently tasked to coach the Jazz's Summer League squad in Las Vegas, where he complimented Mitch Creek --who participated in the Jazz's Summer League-- and compared him to Ingles.
It certainly took Ingles time to adjust, but he did so, and made a successful transition from Europe --where precise team execution is valued over pace-- to the individualistic, high-scoring, and often frenetic pace of the NBA.
Since his first season with Utah in 2014, Ingles' raw numbers in the recent 2016/17 season have improved significantly (stats).
Ingles rebounded better (2.2 to 3.2), made more assists (2.3 to 2.7), more steals (0.9 to 1.2), all while playing slightly increased minutes (21.2 to 24.1). He even attempted more threes (from 2.6 to 3.4 a game) and made them more often (35.6% to 44.1%).
His breakout performance last season as a multi-dimensional forward who can pass, defend, and shoot at a high level, as well as his $52 million, 4-year re-signing with Utah, bears testament to coach Snyder and Guthrie's body of work.
“A lot of credit (for my leap) goes to them they’ve taken and the care, the effort they’ve put into helping me," Ingles also said.
"With our team now, there’ll be different roles for everybody, so I’m going to take all of the opportunities I can. I still feel like I’ve got things I can improve and get better, and obviously Utah does, too, giving me four years (on my contract).
“I owe them for supporting me and backing me with this deal, and I obviously don’t want to let them down. So, I’m ready. I can go back now and play. I’m pretty excited to get back into it. I’m excited about our team and the year, and excited for myself, just to get out there again.
“Hopefully my role keeps getting bigger and expands, and, if it does, I feel like I’m ready to take that on.”
Following Gordon Hayward's departure to Boston, Ingles stands as a logical candidate who could fill the small forward spot, especially when it comes to playmaking.
The swingman has been known for his pass-first mentality, and that might have to change, to one where he looks for his own shots more often. Aggression is an overused catchphrase in basketball talk, but the team's need to fill the Hayward-sized scoring gap, and the fact that attacking breaks defenses down, points in one simple direction.
If Ingles is to take that next leap, he has to start by being the aggressor, by attacking as the ball-handler, forcing defenses to collapse, and then making the right play. He doesn't have to score everything, but he has to lead. It's time to return that commitment the team made to him, and expand his game beyond what it was last season.
Will it happen next season? It's not an overnight change, but it's certainly not impossible. We're looking forward to it.