Utah Jazz: With stability restored at home, Ingles has found a bigger role on the court

Dec 11, 2016 | by Tony Jones, The Salt Lake Tribune

There was something missing for Joe Ingles. And the Utah Jazz small forward knew exactly what it was.

His family was gone, as his wife, Renae, and their two children were back in their native Australia to deal with visa issues. To say Ingles missed their presence qualifies as an understatement. Phone calls, Skype and Facetime — they were cool and all.

But there was nothing like them being close and in person, which is where they are now.

"It's nice for me to have them back and get back to normal life," Ingles said.

After almost two months down under, the Ingles family has been reunited, back together now that the visa questions are in the past. And it's no coincidence that Ingles has played arguably the best basketball of his Jazz career since their return.

"Having the kids and the family back is definitely a big part of it," Ingles admitted.

How good has he been? He's arguably the biggest rotational surprise of Utah's season. Through 18 minutes a night, Ingles is averaging 6.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. But his real value comes with the way he's shooting the basketball. He's currently leading the Jazz, making 48 percent of his 3-point attempts. He scored a career-high 21 points last Thursday in a loss to the Golden State Warriors. He scored 11 points, grabbed six rebounds and handed out four assists in Saturday night's win over the Sacramento Kings. He has become one of Quin Snyder's most trusted players off the bench.

"I think I'm finally comfortable with the system and my role within the system," Ingles said. "Being able to go home to my family after games and just get away from it all is a good thing. I'm relaxing, I'm shooting the ball when I'm open."

Ingles' contribution this season is a minor upset. The Jazz entered the year with such a deep roster, particularly in the wing positions, that there was question as to where Ingles would fit in.

For his part, Ingles knew there was a possibility that his minutes from the previous two seasons would get squeezed. But he didn't care. Of course he wanted to play, but he was prepared to be happy with spot minutes in the name of winning, if that were needed.

Instead, Ingles' role this season has evolved even more than it has in the past. Part of this has been due to the injury bug. Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward and Joe Johnson have all missed time.

But his versatility and his shooting have gotten him onto the floor, regardless. He's able to play three positions in Snyder's offense. And he's knocking down jumpers at a career clip, which Snyder and the coaching staff value as much as anything.

"The key for him is aggressiveness," Snyder said. "If he can be aggressive on both offense and defense, that's what we need. He's a good shooter, regardless. But when he's shooting without hesitation, and getting right into his shot, he can be a really good shooter. We need him to be good defensively on the perimeter. That's also one of the things Joe can do for us."

Ingles has been at his best when the Jazz have been short-handed. He scored 20 points early in November against the Memphis Grizzlies in a game Hood missed. Combine that with his performance against Golden State and on Saturday, his three biggest games have come with Hood out of the lineup.

Whenever the Jazz find themselves completely healthy, Ingles will likely fall deeper into the rotation. But there's no question Utah has gotten significant value out of signing Ingles as an unknown three years ago when he was cut by Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers.

He's been a glue guy on the floor, and one of the most lively personalities on the team in the locker room.

And now that his family is with him, he knows he can now concentrate solely on basketball.