Wednesday, 11 March 2020, began with social distancing rules in place for NBA locker rooms and the possibility of games without fans. In a dizzying day of escalating developments, it ended with Joe Ingles and his Utah Jazz teammates at the centre of the NBA world grinding to a halt.
“I assumed we would be in this two-week quarantine and we'll be back,” Ingles recalled of that night in Oklahoma City over a conference call with media in late April. “Obviously, that was very early on and I didn't know as much as we all do now with the whole thing that's going on.”
The NBA had quickly become a torch bearer for coronavirus awareness, with the rapidly evolving pandemic taking hold of the United States as it already had in other sections of the world. Ingles’ initial thoughts of a two-week hiatus has now stretched out beyond six, with no end in sight. From a basketball standpoint, it’s the uncertainty of what the immediate future holds that is the most difficult challenge to overcome.
"It's a lot harder than it seems.
“It's really hard motivation wise... if we go back obviously we all want to play and finish the season but it is really hard and I'm really fortunate that I have a gym at home. A lot of my teammates live in apartments that don't have access.
“They've all got bikes and dumbbells at home to do stuff but it's hard when you are used to playing with a team and everything is with a team, we fly together, we hang out together, everything is together and all of a sudden you get put in this position.”
Despite challenges with self-motivation, Ingles is still completing morning workouts and has even acquired the first real basketball hoop he has had since the days of getting buckets in the family driveway in Adelaide as a teenager.
Part of the proposed plan for the return of NBA basketball is a centralised quarantine zone, where teams could set up shop in one location for the length of time required to complete the 2019/20 season.
“It would be extremely hard. It would be the longest I’ve been away from the kids, which I don't know how much I'm willing to do that, as much as I love playing basketball.
Olympic duties in 2016 meant Ingles left for Rio with wife Renee and their newborn twins, Mila and Jacob for six weeks, but he admits with the kids now older, leaving them for long periods of time is a challenging thought.
“They've got personalities, they know when I'm leaving, they miss me, stuff like that makes it harder to leave. Two or three months without them would be borderline impossible for me but we'll wait until a decision is made and we'll go from there and see what the best way around it is.
“I don't want to just see them over FaceTime or something like that.”
Under contract with the Jazz through the end of the 2022 season, Ingles immediate NBA future is set, though, he conceded the ‘r’ word has come into his mind in recent weeks.
"Absolutely, I'm never retiring!" he said with a laugh. “I had unbelievable respect for Renee and a lot of other mothers and single dads, or single mums or whatever the situation is but it's a lot harder than you could ever imagine!”
“My whole plan was to play out my deal that I've got and make a decision after that. As much as I would just like to make a decision on my own I'll put the kids first and if the kids are ready to go home and be put in school and kind of settle down and not have me leaving all the time then that's my first priority, it's not whether I want to keep playing or not, It will be a family decision.”