Joe Ingles on the surging Jazz, trash talking, blowing kisses, and the Australian bushfires

During the summer of 2014, the Los Angeles Clippers made the decision to cut 26 year old Joe Ingles. It was a blessing in disguise, as the Utah Jazz acquired the lanky baller a few days later, and Ingles has not looked back since.

Ingles' signing might have initially been to help mentor fellow Australian and newly drafted top five pick, Dante Exum, but the swingman has turned into so much more, in the years that would follow. He is now one of the longest tenured current Jazz players alongside big man Rudy Gobert, and has contributed immensely to the team’s multiple playoff appearances in the last six years. Acquiring Mike Conley, bolstering their bench and the league gaining parity has meant the expectations for the Jazz are much higher this season.

Ingles recently returned to Zach Lowe's Lowe Post podcast to chat about the Jazz’s current run and some basketball stories, while also touching on personal topics such as his son’s disability and the tragic ongoing bushfires in Australia, and also a shorter nugget that featured a story on how Ingles thought he was going to be traded, following an accident with Jazz ownership.

The Jazz are cooking

After a typical slow start, the Jazz have righted the ship, winning 18 games out of their past 21 games. They currently sit tied second in the Western Conference standings, only four games behind the Los Angeles Lakers. It wasn't the same back in November, when they went 8-6.

“We were defended very differently. We used to be able to get down and throw it to Rudy and if they would help in on Rudy, we’d throw it to the corner and shoot threes. That’s what we did,” Ingles said in response to Lowe’s question about the team’s passing and three point attempts being down at the start of the season. While it was clear that the Jazz weren’t their usual efficient self, Ingles suggested that the uncharacteristic offseason changes might have had something to do with it.

“I think, the personnel. I have said it a few times, my first five years here, whatever it was, we had like maybe three changes, maybe four changes, like nothing crazy. And it was always our core had pretty much been here the whole time together. Then I think we had like ten new guys, nine, ten new guys [this season],” Ingles shared. “Me and Rudy are the only two left from [Jazz head coach] Quin [Snyder]’s first year here.”

The introduction of Mike Conley Jr to the team, the rise of Royce O’Neal as a two way contributor and the arrival of marksman, Bojan Bogdanović, resulted in him being moved from a starting role --that he had made his own in the past few seasons-- to more of a sixth man role, to begin the season.

Over the first 19 games of the season, Ingles was averaging 6.78 points per game, nearly five points below his two previous seasons. He was also shooting 28% from three (25/87), a significant distance away from his career average of 41%. When Conley went down against the 76ers in early December, Ingles was moved to the starting unit, where he has since made his mark. In the 23 games Ingles has started since then, he is averaging 13.6 points a game, shooting about 50% from three, while dishing out six assists per game, courtesy of Basketball Reference.

“I think for me at the start, kind of individually, it was an adjustment,” Ingles explained to Lowe. “I’d started for the Jazz for two to three years now, whatever it was, I was obviously comfortable in that. Do I think I’m a starter in the NBA? Yeah. Was I happy to take a role and accept it and try and be really good at sixth man or whatever? Of course. I wanted to win with the Jazz and a part of that was the offseason: getting Bojan, getting Mike, doing what we did with the team. Someone’s got to come off the bench. Of course I was fine with it.”

The sharpshooter said he would have eventually figured out to excel in his new role, but admitted when he came back as a starter, he was much more comfortable.

“It was like, oh well this is what I was used to. I didn’t have to think about what am I going to do now, how am I going to get involved. This is what I have done. That was the easy part. Coming down to the court, Rudy’s there, Donovan’s out there, it was just normal to me as soon as I got put in.”

Conley recently returned from his injury, coming off the bench on a minutes restriction. Prior to his return, Ingles mentioned that he would be fine with Snyder's decisions on rotation, no matter the outcome.

“Regardless, when Mike comes back, if that’s me, whatever it is, whoever it is, if it’s me I’ll accept it. I think I’ll be a lot better playing the way I have been playing recently, it’ll be a lot easier to just go there and hopefully just kind of continue to play the way I have been playing."

The ball fake, trash talking and blowing kisses

Not known for his tremendous athleticism, Ingles counteracts his deficiency with his crafty instincts. His pass fake on opposing pick and roll big men has been a staple of his offensive package since entering the league, catching victims every season.

Former teammate and pick and roll partner, Derrick Favors, was one of his latest targets on the trademark move.

“I did. I did. I looked at him as soon as I did it and laid it up, and he said something about doing it again, ‘I’ll get it next time’. But he won't,” Ingles laughed.

Another way in which Ingles makes up for his mediocre athleticism is his ability to talk trash, and getting into the mental space of his opponents. When speaking about whether LeBron James or other superstars would derail him from talking trash, Ingles was clear that the opponent doesn’t matter.

“I would, yeah [talk trash to anyone]. They’re all human beings. It’s not like they’re the Monstars or whatever from Space Jam. There's been people that I try to say stuff to and they won’t even acknowledge me, and I’ll say to them if you don’t want to talk, we won’t talk, it’s fine.”

But, Ingles clarified that it has always been something impromptu, and not a planned activity.

“I never ever have once in my life have gone into a game [thinking], oh we’re playing player whoever, Player X and I’m going to go in and say I’m going to tell him about this or say this. I have never pre-thought about anything. I just go in and usually I get heckled from the crowd and then I say something back to them.”

Ingles' most notable trash talking efforts were in the playoffs two years ago, when he matched up against Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. When asked about a certain moment during the playoff series, Ingles had to correct Lowe’s claim that both players received technical fouls in that particular instance.

“Just he did actually. Just [George]. I didn’t get one. I just misplaced where the line was and was talking to the referee."

“I don’t think he likes me at all to be honest, I think he hates me,” Ingles said in response to Lowe’s assessment that George wasn’t enjoying their battle very much. “If we were ever teammates or like hung out in the summer, I think we would probably get along really well, but I don’t think that’ll ever [happen]."

Later in the podcast, Ingles spoke about how him talking trash to George did indeed help to bridge the gap between the two as players, when Lowe had prompted him to chat about moments in his career where he had felt the most pressure.

“I remember Game 1, Paul George had 40 something, and coach pulled me aside, I’ll never forget it, and was like basically kind of without directly saying it. ‘We’re going to give you one more chance to guard him then we might have have to try something else.’ And I was like, all right,” Ingles said. “I don’t know what he had the second game, but he’s obviously a hell of a scorer. So it was going to be tough on me regardless, which is why I tried to just get under his skin in other ways because it’s like, put it at a one on one with no one else on the court, [there's] probably a good chance he’s going to beat me, unless I get really hot from three, which I can. And there’s no big out there to ball fake layups, so it makes it a bit tough for me,” Ingles jokingly said, as he concluded his story.

It doesn’t stop at the players for Ingles, though. The South Australian will blow kisses to opposing team’s fans, usually after he nails a shot or helps close out a game.

“Everyone,” Ingles laughed, after Lowe asked him about who he has blown kisses to recently. “Probably too many. I did the other night, I can’t remember where we were recently and I hadn’t even caught the ball yet. I was running in transition to the corner and I think Emmanuel [Mudiay] had it and I didn’t even know if I was going to get the ball and they started talking before I’d even [got the ball] and I could hear them.

"It was in New Orleans, I think. And you can already hear them talking and all that. And I saw Emmanuel [Mudiay] throw it and I’m like, ‘well I’m going to shoot it now cause they’re already saying something’ so I had to shoot it. That was probably the only thing I have pre-thought about. And then I shot it and it went in.”

Off the court

Ingles has twin kids with his wife, Renee Ingles, a boy and a girl. The boy, Jacob, was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old, in 2019. On the 27th March last season, the Jazz hosted an ‘Autism Awareness Night’, to support autistic children worldwide. During the game, Vivint Smart Home (the arena of the Jazz), pledged to donate $5,000 for each assist Ingles had up to five assists, while Ingles and the team additionally agreed to donate $1.2 million USD to autism awareness.

When discussing the high pressure moments he has had in his career so far, Ingles concluded that this night was up there.

“The other one, pressure-wise, is a bit different, but it was the first autism game we had,” he said. “And, like, just finding out about Jake, had been going through that and then I guess we felt like we were kind of alone in this thing. While we we’re going through the process, me and Renee, and Miller and Jacob, trying to figure out kind of what’s going on.

“And then all of a sudden it’s like we’re having this game, which the Jazz had done for a few years, so it wasn’t a game just for me or for us, but all of a sudden it’s become a lot bigger deal and all I remember going into the game, was like I have to play well this game. 20,000 people watching me, I have got autistic kids that have come to watch, like, me and Jacob. And I was like, I have to play well. And for me that was one of the more like [tougher times]. And I nearly had a triple-double.”

Ingles indeed finished the game with 11 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds, as the Jazz faithful urged and chanted to bring him back on, so he could record his first ever triple-double. He explained to Lowe that there might have been a little bit of extra incentive to record some of his assists, when the host of the podcast asked if he thought he had played well.

“Yeah, kind of bad, but, they were donating per assist that I had, so at the start of the game, I was like, I always try and get my teammates involved at the start regardless. There was probably a little extra motivation to like throw an extra pass instead of shooting it but it didn’t change the way I played,” Ingles explained. “But I had like, eight assists in the first quarter or something like that, so I was like this is awesome, like the money is going to obviously something that’s really close to me, so that’s awesome.”

Ingles continued, concluding that the lead up to the game was a big reason for how much importance and pressure he was placing on himself.

“And it then it was just, I want to win, we had so many people from the autistic community in Utah at the game, and families and mums and dads that have gone through what we have gone through and Renee there, and it was just the whole build up to it was a lot, and then we won.”

Ingles was also one of the nine Australian NBA players who all joined up with the NBA to give $750,000 AUD to the Red Cross Foundation. While discussing the ravaging nature of the bushfires and how it impacted one of Ingles’ best friends, as well as the billions of animals in Australia, Lowe asked if it felt weird not being able to be there in Australia to help.

“I said it the other day, we did that donation thing with the NBA and the NBPA, which was awesome and we have got stuff going on with Jazz, and for us all we can really do is try and donate and try and help. Like, I wish I could jump on a plane and go back and go back and like get hands on and try and help some people, and help some animals,” Ingles shared. “I honestly wish I could jump on a plane.”

Ingles also spoke about the ways that help could be given from outside Australia.

“... I think for everyone obviously that’s not in Australia that can’t go and directly help, it’s just the donations to try and help. The wildlife, the firefighters, I think is a big one. There’s like volunteers out there too, like, they’re not paying for all these people to go and help. These guys are just doing it because they’re trying to save our country. If you’re not there, then donating whatever you can, obviously, every little bit helps in some way, like I said we have got some stuff coming up with the Jazz soon that hopefully will make a big difference too.”

Shortly after, the Jazz announced that Ingles and his wife would contribute $500 to firefighters and other supporting organisation for every three-point Ingles has made so far this season, and continues to make, up to February 12.

Additionally, a shirt was designed, featuring a map of Australia in Jazz colours, that will be sold at the Jazz official store during a game against the Houston Rockets, on 27th January, that will also go towards Australian firefighters.

“I’m proud to be Australian, and to see what’s happening to my home country, friends and family has been overwhelming,” Ingles said in a statement. “Jazz fans are known around the NBA for their generosity and love of community, and I hope they can join me in matching my 3-point donation by giving to the Red Cross. Everything helps — even if it’s $1 per 3-pointer — and it means so much to those who are risking their lives to save others.”