In a storied November matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies, Joe Ingles returned from the locker room after suffering a head wound that required stitches and a Civil War-era head bandage.
Thirty seconds later, Marc Gasol landed on Ingles near the sideline after trying to break up a pass. An exasperated Ingles yelled at his head coach, Quin Snyder, loud enough for the crowd to hear.
"Hey, just get me out of the game,” he joked.
It’s the only time Ingles has ever asked that.
Ingles is now the NBA’s current leader in consecutive games played, having logged 281 games straight since not playing in the Jazz’s Dec. 16, 2015, contest against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Since then, Ingles has been on the floor in every contest.
The title came to Ingles after Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns was part of a car accident last week, putting him in the league’s concussion protocol. His streak ended at 303 consecutive games last Friday.
Now that Ingles is the league’s ironman, what’s his secret?
“I could make a snide comment,” Snyder joked. After all, Ingles isn’t exactly known for the speed at which he runs up and down the court, nor for his wild danger-inducing athleticism. He’s, well, the man Jazz play-by-play commentator Craig Bolerjack calls “Slow-Mo Joe."
“Take care of them knees,” teammate Derrick Favors laughed. “He’s not dunking every play, not running superfast.”
And, of course, the streak pales in comparison to some of the longer playing streaks in NBA history. A.C. Green holds the overall record with 1,192 consecutive games in 14 consecutive seasons in the late 1980s and ’90s, while former Jazz and Utah Stars great Ron Boone played in 1,041 straight games.
In this era, players probably take games off more frequently than they did back then to maintain peak playing condition throughout the season. Sports scientists also have learned more about the long-term impact of playing through nagging injuries.
But while Ingles’ accomplishment isn’t setting long-term records, it still takes significant commitment from the 31-year-old Jazzman to have gotten to this point. He has played the night after a significant sprained ankle, or with undisclosed finger injuries that require tape on his hands. He spends plenty of time with the Jazz’s training staff, led by Mike Elliott and Eric Waters, to get his body in playable condition night after night.
“There’s probably been games where he could have not played for good reason, but he’s not in any danger, he’s just uncomfortable, and he wants to be out there,” Snyder said. “I think he’s done a really good job with his preparation and his recovery. That’s a credit to our medical staff as well.”
For his part, Ingles didn’t think much of the streak. He wasn’t aware of the accomplishment when reporters asked him about it after the Jazz’s win over Dallas on Saturday night.
“I do like to play basketball; it’s why I’ve played for however long. But it’s not like I’m preparing each week to keep the streak,” Ingles said. “I don’t even know what it is, to be really honest with you. So, cool.”
That’s a narrative that his coach confirmed.
“He doesn’t want to be out there to break a record or have a streak. He wants to be out there because he likes to play, and he feels like doing his job and making that commitment to the team,” Snyder said.
“More than anything between the ears, he wants to be out there. It’s important to him. When something is important to you, you figure out every way you can to do it.”
Even if that requires introducing to the game a new style of headgear.