Like most people, Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles concedes that he didn’t have a great grasp of the scope of the coronavirus pandemic when the NBA was first shut down following teammate Rudy Gobert’s positive test for COVID-19.
A month and a half later, however, it’s sunk in to the extent that, while he’s holding out hope for the resumption of the season, he’s also not terribly optimistic it will actually happen.
“I think originally, when we were in OKC, I assumed we would be in this two-week quarantine and then we’ll be back, like it will be two or three weeks, then we’ll be back playing. Obviously, that was very early on and I probably didn’t know as much as we all do now with the whole thing that’s going on,” Ingles told Utah media in a Friday morning videoconference. “But honestly, my personal opinion is every week that we go along, it feels like it’s a less and less chance that we’re going to [return].”
He is staying prepared just in case.
Ingles noted he’s in a position of privilege relative to some teammates, as he and wife Renae — a former professional netball player — have a good gym at their home, while some Jazz players are without proper workout facilities as they live in apartment buildings.
Meanwhile, he even relented and finally splurged on getting a hoop at his house this month.
“I’ve honestly never had a basketball hoop except a little plastic kids’ one,” he said. “… Like two weeks ago, I got a deal with Lifetime [Fitness] and I hit the guy up and he brought a hoop around. … Everyone that’s in Utah’s got one at the moment, so we can at least pretend we’re shooting.”
Still, he’s got some serious reservations about what it is he might potentially be returning to.
Asked about the scenario being floated around of the entire league sequestering in a single location for a couple months to conclude the season, the Aussie made it clear he was not enamored of the idea, owing to the long-term separation it would necessitate from Renae and 3-year-old twins Milla and Jacob.
“It would be extremely hard. That would be basically the longest I’ve been away from the kids — which I don’t know how much I’m willing to do that, as much as I love playing basketball,” Ingles said.
He recalled leaving the family two days after the twins were born to go play for the Australian national men’s basketball team at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and how difficult doing that was. Now, he added, it would be infinitely worse.
“Back then, obviously, probably as hard as it was, it was easier because they were just like eating and pooping and that was it — they sleep, eat and poop and that was 24 hours a day. And now that they’ve got personalities, they know when I’m leaving, they tell me they miss me, stuff like that — that’s makes it a lot harder to leave,” Ingles said. “Even just leaving to go to the supermarket, it’s like they cry and they don’t want you to leave and stuff, so two or three months without them would be borderline impossible for me.”
He became increasingly reflective in discussing the various facets of his family life. In talking about the worldwide impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on people, he noted that his “mum works in a nursing home [in Australia], so she’s still working — that’s considered essential at the moment.” His dad, however, had been fired from his job.
Ingles also recalled how the 5.7-magnitude earthquake that shook Utah on March 18 prompted him to consider putting the family on the next flight to Australia, partly because “I’ve never experienced an earthquake,” and also because “Milla kept saying that our house was shaking, and that our house in Australia doesn’t shake.” He ultimately decided against it, however.
“The negative is it’s going to winter there, which I’m not really excited about; and you actually have to be two weeks quarantined in a hotel if we flew back into Australia right now,” Ingles explained. “Two weeks in this house was hard enough in quarantine, never mind in a hotel room with two nearly-4-year-olds. So yeah, we’re going to stay here kind of until further notice.”
The additional time he’s had with his family also got him thinking about his career.
While he initially joked that being around a pair of young kids 24/7 had now convinced him “I’m never retiring,” he subsequently grew more serious about the role his children would play in determining how long he would play. While noting that he’s never put any kind of timeline on his career before, he pointed out that after agreeing to a one-year extension with the Jazz earlier this season, his contract would be up when he was 35 going on 36, which would “put me at a really good spot age-wise to make a decision on my career or what I wanted to do.”
A primary consideration, he explained, would be evaluating school options for Milla and Jacob — would he and Renae want to start them in school in Utah knowing he could get traded as he gets older? Does it even make sense to start them here, considering the family’s intention to move back to Australia after he retires?
In the meantime, he’s putting his effort and focus into the podcast he does with his wife, explaining he hopes that listeners find it intriguing for not being focused on basketball.
“As much as I love basketball, I don’t want to sit here and talk about basketball. I want to find out some pretty interesting stuff about some other pretty cool people,” he said.” … Yeah, we just sit down and kind of talk sh-t [with] people for 45 minutes, it’s pretty fun.”
Because of the easygoing nature of Ingles’ podcast, Jazz television play-by-play man Craig Bolerjack asked if he had considered a post-basketball career as an analyst. The forward admitted the idea was intriguing, but ultimately concluded it wouldn’t work.
“I think I actually would enjoy doing something like that. But we will be living in Australia when I’m done, and I don’t think you can do color commentating [via Zoom] very well,” Ingles said.