Joe Ingles had a breakout rookie season in Utah.
With injuries to Alec Burks (shoulder) and Rodney Hood (foot) he ended up starting in 32 of the 79 games.
A virtual unknown at the start of the season to the majority of the league, but at the very least the Utah Jazz must have felt like he was better than Carrick Felix, or Kevin Murphy, or Dahntay Jones and even better than fellow Australian forward Brock Motum because these four names were cut during training camp and despite meeting with the Jazz within only days before the regular season started, he showed enough promise to offer a one-year deal.
Media members who knew little of Ingles game suggested initially that Joe may have been signed only to assist in helping fellow Aussie Boomer Dante Exum get off to the right start “off the court”. This ridiculous notion sadly gained momentum as the 27 year old started his NBA rookie season off with less than impressive play on the court.
During the first few months Joe would pass up shots (which can break plays just as much as someone shooting the ball too much), and the shots he would take were not one that went in enough.
There was a moment when we saw that the Jazz hadn’t asked Joe to be a “Jack Haley” to Dante at all when coach Quin Snyder decided to use him against Carmelo Anthony in the fourth quarter of a game against the Knicks.
The Jazz had watched Ingles at the FIBA World Cup and scouted his European team Maccabi Tel Aviv during the time he led them to a Euroleague championship in 2014.
Joe Ingles become a fixture in the starting line-up shortly after that game and ended the season averaging 21.2 minutes on the court.Despite moving back to the bench primarily after in March his production never missed a beat.
Now that the season is over they have to make a decision on him, will Ingles remain in Salt Lake for 2015-16 season?
If you ask him, and Aussie basketball reporter Boti Nagi did, he wants to return.
Ingles initially went to Utah on a non-guaranteed contract which was upgraded. A free agent now, he is a little unsure what the future holds, though he would love a Jazz recall.
“The coach was great and so were the staff, the players, the fans and the organisation,” he said, the Jazz in a building mode and Ingles a smooth fit.
“Renae also loved it there and the lifestyle – I want her to be happy when she’s visiting me as well.”
“It was an unbelievable experience – I still pinch myself it all happened. To start in 30 games, to win 38 when a lot of people didn’t expect us to get to 20, it was pretty amazing.”
– Boti Nagi, Melbourne Herald Sun, 2015
Ingles will have options but he enjoyed the team immensely, even if he had to embrace being a “rookie” and wearing a back-pack bearing the characters from Disney’s “Frozen” movie.
I think it’s clear from the coaching staff and the Utah Fan’s, who refer to him affectionately by “Big Joe” or “Slo-Mo Joe” enjoyed having him on the team.
Joe Ingles is a strong locker room glue guy that you need on championship contenders. He brings a vocal leadership and you always see him communicating to teammates on the court, and for a team that had an average age of 23 that’s something more important in Utah than many other NBA destinations.
Time will tell, but it looks like Fans, Coaches and Joe all won be being together in 2014-15, hopefully we get a chance to see it again next year.
Note: Jack Haley was sometimes referred to as Dennis Rodman’s “babysitter” during his time with the Chicago Bulls. Despite winning a championship it was believed he was a part of the Bulls squad to keep Dennis Rodman focused rather than because of his playing ability.