The Jazz’s Joe Ingles on Australia’s basketball growth, his game against Donovan Mitchell and how he’s worked this summer

Canada's Oshae Brissett, right, drives past Joe Ingles, of Australia, during an exhibition basketball game in Perth, Australia, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019. (Richard Wainwright/AAP Image via AP)

Melbourne, Australia • No matter the game, Joe Ingles has one priority on his mind after playing basketball: going home with his family. So he couldn’t have been happy when he saw a Salt Lake Tribune reporter waiting for him after his Australian men’s national team lost to Team USA 102-86 before 50,000 fans on Thursday, knowing a litany of questions was waiting.

Still, Ingles spoke one-on-one for a few minutes outside of the locker room, on the growth of Australian basketball, the chance to play against Donovan Mitchell, and how he’s worked this summer.

Can you explain to an American audience what this game means to Australia?

Yeah, it was just as new for us [players] as it was for the fans. We’ve been trying to get a game like this down here for at least 10 years, since I started with the national team. I think our program has kept building and building, and obviously our program’s in a good spot. The players we have, the players that are in the States, the young players that are coming through. We’re proud to have that first game, to have it here, and 50-whatever thousand people. Speaking with Donovan [Mitchell] the other day, they were proud to be part of it, too. It was really cool to do. We’d much rather win, but it’s a building process for us.

Speaking of Donovan, you obviously saw him frequently today. What did you think of those battles on the court and how did those conversations go?

The conversations were funny. It was good to see him. It’s funny being on the other side of it, because I’ve only ever been a teammate. Now I know what guys go through on a nightly basis with defending him. He looks good. He looks like he’s been working out, and I think defensively, he’s locked in, which is nice to see.

It really did seem that way, especially in the second quarter on.

It’s not obviously that he can’t do it, but with this team they’ve got, they’re obviously loaded with the guys they’ve got. Knowing Popovich a little bit, too, he’s going to be on him to play defense to stay out there. I think Donovan and everyone knows what he can do offensively, and when he’s locked in defensively, he’s amazing. He’ll be a big part of what they do.

After the Houston series you said one big focus you wanted to work on was driving with your right, because they kept forcing you left...

You mean forcing me right, right? Are you jet-lagged?

Yeah, I got in Melbourne three hours before the game.

Unprintable expletive.

How’s that part of your game coming along this summer?

I had a bit of time off originally, and then got back into it. I guess the good thing is that I’ve just been here in Melbourne the whole time, I haven’t had to travel much. Up until this Boomers stuff started, I’ve been a stay-at-home dad with Renae. So, I’ve got some really good work in, had the Jazz [coaching staff] out here for a bit. I’ve felt really good.

I think the hardest part is just finding the playing feeling again. I think we’ve been out for four months since that Houston game. It’s a long time not to play basketball, especially competitively. You can play pickup, and workout by yourself, but playing 5 on 5 is extremely different. So yeah, just finding my way back into games, and I’m pretty confident I’ll be fine once it comes around.

Is the World Cup experience a good thing in that it means you’ll be in shape for training camp, or will you feel fatigue?

I’ll be in shape for both, I think. Having the four months of no games, to simulate the game [is big]. Last week, and even tonight a little bit, we were feeling our legs and our lungs. But it’s obviously what you need to go through, and like I said I’m very confident by the time it comes around, we’ll be in shape.

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