Sports / Utah Jazz / 
Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles (2) holds his arms up after nailing a 3-pointer that pushed him past John Stockton as the Jazz all-time leader in 3-pointers during the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz NBA game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Patrick Kinahan: Selfless Ingles not about to brag on himself

By Patrick Kinahan, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Feb. 23, 2021 at 10:13 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Forget about getting Joe Ingles to tout his own basketball ability, even as he is putting together the best season of his seven-year NBA career.

Rather than dwell on himself, the egoless Ingles personifies the team-first attitude that all coaches want in a player. To him, putting team success ahead of individual statistics is not only lip service.

Ingles is fine playing any role coach Quin Snyder wants, be it as a facilitator of the offense coming off the bench or piling up the points as a starter. A reserve most of the season, Ingles moved into the lineup during the six games Mike Conley recently missed due to injury and responded by scoring at least 20 points in half of them.

With Ingles playing at an all-star level, the Jazz went 6-0 during Conley's absence and solidified their hold on first place in the Western Conference. Once Conley regained his health, Ingles returned to the bench with nary a complaint knowing full well his numbers would dwindle.

"Joe's a pro," said former longtime college assistant coach Tim LaComb, who now serves as a Jazz radio analyst on The Zone Sports Network. "He's one of those guys, if you watch him play every night you really appreciate the greatness of Joe.

"He's so unassuming, and he really does have that attitude where he's so instrumental in the team's success and he deflects. That's a real trait the team has taken, and I think it works for everybody."

From sheer numbers standpoint, Ingles had his best season in 2018-19 when he averaged career highs of 12.1 points, 5.7 assists and four rebounds a game. To date, his averages this season are 11.9 points, 4.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds and he is eighth in the league at three-point shooting at 46%.

But numbers don't begin to detail the value Ingles brings to the Jazz. The jack-of-all trades does a little bit of everything, to the point that Donovan Mitchell said he didn't realize all Ingles brings to the team until the Aussie missed a few games with a foot injury earlier in the season.

Always a willing passer but reluctant to shoot, Ingles has become more comfortable in all aspects of the Jazz offense. Still, don't expect him to lead the team in field goals attempted any time soon, even as his coach implores him to fire away when the opportunity presents itself.

"He's finding more people and making better reads," Snyder said. "He's been more aggressive. He's taken that to heart. As a result, I would say it adds another dimension to his game."

All this has come from a player who was a last-second addition to the team after the Los Angeles Clippers cut him days before the 2014-15 season began. At first a commitment to defense earned him playing for a team that finished 11th in the Western Conference.

Over time, as the team improved, so did Ingles' game. Now he's a vital cog on a team with championship aspirations.

Remarkably, instead of declining with age, Ingles has improved. No reason for him to slow down at age 33.

"We feel like you can continue to get better," Snyder said. "There's no ceiling for anybody based on their age, and that's what he's done."

Let's hear from Ingles now. Is this his best NBA season?

"I don't know," Ingles said during his weekly appearance on The Zone Sports Network.

Good thing we didn't expect more of a self-assessment on his game. About the only introspection you'll get is he's more comfortable in his role this season compared to last year.

After becoming a full-time starter for two seasons beginning in 2017-18, Ingles moved to a reserve role last year in favor of the newly acquired Conley. The transition for Ingles mirrored the initial struggle Conley had after playing his first 12 seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies.

The adjustments for both players are major reasons for the Jazz success so far.

"I was a little bit uncomfortable coming off the bench last year," Ingles said. "I don't mean that in terms of not accepting that role or not wanting to do it. Especially at the start of the year, I just couldn't find a rhythm."

It's here now, better than ever.

More from Patrick Kinahan:

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