Given that it’s Joe Ingles, it should come as no surprise to anyone that his default response to most questions is sarcasm.
Asked whether his pregame routine has changed as a result of serving as the Jazz’s sixth man this season, he replied, “Oh, I changed my shootaround time. You probably noticed that. I moved from second-to-last to last. That was a big change in my life.”
Thing is, though, once Ingles has got the snarky one-liners out of the way, he typically follows up with insight, thoughtfulness, and intelligence. And the same could be said of his play on the court, couldn’t it?
That’s certainly the mentality he’s bringing to his new responsibilities this season.
“I feel comfortable. I’ll be more and more comfortable each game,” Ingles said. “It’s obviously different. It’s different than starting, but you just figure it out along the way.”
And while neither coming off the bench (he did mostly that his first three seasons in the league) or playing with the second unit (something he did a lot of last season) are completely new to him, he nevertheless figured it couldn’t hurt to get some advice on how best to re-acclimate to doing that.
So he’s been reaching out, picking other bench players’ brains on the subject.
“I've spoken to a couple guys. I think that Patty Mills is an obvious one. He's done it during his whole career with the Spurs, I think. I just spoke to J.J. [Redick] when we were in New Orleans a week or two ago, whenever that was,” Ingles said. “… It's been a few years here, obviously, since I came off the bench, so just figuring out different ways, what they do, what their routine is. If there's anything I can steal or use that could help me or help our team win games, I'm gonna do it.”
He’s been using those first minutes on the bench to try to get a feel for how the flow of the game is unfolding — how teams are playing on either end, how the referees are calling the game, adjusting his level of aggressiveness based on how many team fouls the opponent has accumulated.
“It's different, but it's something I'm enjoying embracing and keep working at it,” he said.
It’s been a process.
While he’s experienced a slight drop in minutes per game, from 31.3 a year ago to 28.8 so far this season, some other statistical declines have been more pronounced. Ingles is taking three fewer shots per game, his 3-point percentage has declined from 39.1% to 34.2%, his scoring has been reduced from 12.1 to 7.6 points, and his assists per game have dropped from 5.7 to 3.4.
Asked what he’s seen from his teammate and fellow Aussie, Dante Exum — who is nearing a return to action — said that in his estimation, Ingles is much like the majority of the Jazz in that he’s excelled on one end of the court while figuring some things out on the other.
“Yeah, I mean, he's still a dog on defense. He always is and always will be,” Exum said. “[But], I've said it before — I want him to shoot the ball more.”
Ingles certainly seemed to take that to heart in Wednesday night’s victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, as he played one of his best games of the season.
He replaced Donovan Mitchell with 6:20 remaining in the first quarter, hit a floater less than two minutes later, and nailed a 3-pointer with half a minute left that brought Utah within one. His second triple of the game, just 12 seconds into the second quarter, tied things up.
In all, Ingles hit 6 of his season-high 11 shots and totaled a season-high 16 points, to go along with two rebounds and two assists.
Coach Quin Snyder, who subscribes to the idea that the importance heaped upon starting lineups is generally overblown, nevertheless conceded the possibility he was “undervaluing” the changes inherent in Ingles shifting from starting to not, and added that he recognized the intrinsic benefits of a player having stability to his situation.
“I want Joe to play well all game. There’s times when he’s in the game where he’s stabilizing, where he gets an opportunity to make plays that he wouldn’t necessarily get if he were starting the game, just because of the way the lineups fall out. I don’t mean to diminish it. I think he takes pride in how he plays no matter when he’s playing,” Snyder said. “There’s definitely a preparation component. When you’re used to being announced and starting, you’re looser. We’ve talked about trying to standardize when he’s going to go in the game so he can get on the bike or do whatever. So there are all kinds of little nuances that do have a bottom-line impact, and normalizing that, I think, has been important.”
And Ingles, true to form, is reflexively dismissive of the idea that there’s been any substantively fundamental change (even though he’s already acknowledged the opposite), or anything to his struggles other than the need for him to simply play better.
“The only difference, really, for me is that I’m not out there at the tip and I come in at whatever point of the first quarter,” Ingles said. “… I definitely think I’ve got a lot to improve. I can get a lot better, I think I can play a lot better. … I’ll keep figuring that out. I’ll keep watching the film. At the end of the day, we’re trying to win the game. So whatever I can do to help us win, obviously I’ll do that.”
JAZZ VS. BUCKS
At Vivint Smart Home Arena
Tipoff • 7 p.m.
TV • ATTSN
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 5-3, Bucks 6-2
Last meeting • Jazz, 115-111 (March 2)
About the Jazz • Utah snapped a two-game losing streak by knocking off the Philadelphia 76ers 106-104 on Wednesday night. … At 4-0 in games played at Vivint Arena, the Jazz are one of six NBA teams yet to lose at home. … Through Wednesday’s games, the Jazz are tied for second in the league in defensive rating, at 98.3.
About the Bucks • Milwaukee leads the league in points per game (122.3), rebounds (51.9), 3-pointers made (15.8), field-goal percentage (47.7%), and offensive rating (112.3). … Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 29.0 points, 14.3 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.6 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game, while shooting 59.2% from the field. … The Bucks are coming off a 129-124 win on Wednesday over a Clippers team missing both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.