Minneapolis • Somehow, improbably, inconceivably, the Utah Jazz’s already nightmarish month of January went from bad to worse. Short-handed anyway due to COVID-19 and various ailments, the team took another huge hit Sunday when Joe Ingles suffered a left knee injury against the Wolves.
Ingles, now in his eighth season in the NBA — all with the Jazz — was driving to the hoop in the second quarter when his left knee buckled on a non-contact play around the 5:52 mark, and he collapsed to the court in pain, letting out an audible shriek.
He remained on the court for several minutes, grasping his knee, his face contorted in agony. Training staff surrounded him, as did all of his teammates shortly after. He was eventually helped off the court by center Udoka Azubuike and a team staffer. His knee was visibly swollen, and he could put no weight on his injured leg.
Ingles was quickly ruled out for the remainder of the game. He is scheduled to have an MRI on his knee on Monday in Salt Lake City.
“That took a lot out of guys, seeing him, tears in his eyes,” Mike Conley said afterward. “You know how much this means to him.”
Ingles played 12 minutes and 27 seconds Sunday before the injury, totaling zero points (on 0-for-3 shooting), two rebounds, and three assists.
Conley said that at halftime, players located Ingles in the X-ray room, and “he was in a tough state.” The point guard said everybody told him they loved him and gave him a hug.
While the Jazz momentarily rallied in his absence, after seeing him at halftime, they came out flat, and practically sleepwalked through the final 24 minutes of the team’s fifth consecutive loss, and 10th overall in its past 12 games.
“I hope it’s not as bad as it looks right now,” said Bojan Bogdanovic.
“It’s not even about basketball — having him in the locker room is good for us,” added Rudy Gay. “He’s still our guy.”
Acting coach Alex Jensen didn’t want to use Ingles’ injury as an excuse for the outcome, crediting the Wolves for having a good gameplan and executing it well.
But he couldn’t fault the players for perhaps being distracted.
“You worry about Joe,” said Jensen. “You wouldn’t want to see that happen to anybody, let alone one of your own guys. … It’s not easy to lose a guy like Joe, especially when you’re already down a few guys.”
This season, Ingles was averaging 7.4 points, 3.5 assists, and 2.9 rebounds in 25.2 minutes per game. He had started 15 of the 45 games he appeared in.
Though his production was down from a season ago, when he finished second to teammate Jordan Clarkson in Sixth Man of the Year voting (entering Sunday, his scoring had declined from 12.1 to 7.4; his FG% from 48.9 to 40.8; his 3P% from 45.1 to 35.1), he said at the Jazz’s shootaround ahead of Friday’s game in Memphis that while he was a bit tired, he generally was feeling fine physically — despite the toll from helping his native Australia to a bronze medal at the Summer Olympics.
“No, I feel good,” he said. “I think like anyone, you go through stages of fatigue, tiredness, injuries — all these things we go through as the year goes on. But I feel good.”
Ingles has been a remarkably durable player throughout his NBA career, at one point playing in 384 consecutive games (the most then among current NBA players) before a sore Achilles forced him to the bench on Jan. 8, 2021.
It’s already been a trying season for Ingles, given that he became the first Jazz player this season to test positive for COVID-19 and enter the NBA’s health and safety protocol on Jan. 4.
Depending on the severity of his injury, Utah stands to be without one of its top playmakers and shooters.
Ingles is set to be an unrestricted free agent after this season.
In the meantime, though,
“We’ll just pray for Joe and hope it’s as minimal as possible and he recovers as quick as possible,” said Conley.