Joe has a great basketball IQ. He's worked his tail off to become a really good shooter, but I think what we most miss in him, he's tough. He's a tough kid. —Doc Rivers
LOS ANGELES — Simply put, Joe Ingles isn’t fun to play against.
He’s a (bleep) and has a way of getting under your skin, according to one player.
He grabs you, pesters you and loves to annoyingly straddle the line between what’s a foul and what’s not a foul while guarding you, another player admitted.
And he loves to talk smack, as every player (or reporter) will tell you.
“It just kind of happens,” Ingles said.
By the way, it’s highly likely that the Los Angeles Clippers will agree with the aforementioned descriptions of Ingles and his behavior that the Australian wing’s Utah Jazz teammates made about him.
Ingles' matchup against Clippers guard JJ Redick will be one of the key aspects to Game 2 of this first-round playoff series, which resumes Tuesday night (8:30 p.m. MDT) at Staples Center, with the Jazz up 1-0.
Doc Rivers, for one, is just bummed that Ingles is a key player for the other playoff team in this first-round series. Of course, it wouldn’t have been that way had the Clippers kept Ingles instead of shooting guard Jared Cunningham, who’s no longer in the league, just before the 2014-15 season tipped off.
Rivers, the Clippers’ GM and head coach, still regrets that transaction.
“We reluctantly had to let him go because of our contract situations,” Rivers explained. “We actually told him that we didn’t want to let him go. He’s tough. That’s one of the things that I think we deeply miss with Joe. Joe has a great basketball IQ. He’s worked his tail off to become a really good shooter, but I think what we most miss in him, he’s tough. He’s a tough kid.”
Redick, who averages 15 points but only scored seven in Utah's 97-95 Game 1 victory, might not be thrilled that Ingles is on the other side, either. He has to go up against Ingles, who’s turned into a valuable 3&D guy for the Jazz.
Fellow Aussie Dante Exum lamented the fact that he had to play the part of Redick going off of screens in a recent practice.
“He was grabbing,” Exum said, cracking a grin. “It was the worst thing. I feel bad for JJ.”
Exum complimented Slow-Mo Joe for his defensive tenacity.
“He’s always there,” Exum added. “You might be faster than him, but he’s going to stick with you and make sure he does whatever he can.”
Ingles is even more deadly on the other end of the court. Ingles ranked third in the NBA in 3-point percentage, hitting 44.1 percent of his deep shots. That’s up from 38.6 percent last season and from 35.6 percent as a 27-year-old rookie.
Worst part about that as an opponent?
“When he hits a shot,” Exum said, “he’s going to tell you about it.”
Ingles has a quick wit about him, which he uses as an asset (to make people laugh) and as a weapon (to fluster you in competition).
“Joe is an (expletive),” Jazz forward Derrick Favors said, laughing. “No, no, no. Joe, he’s a good guy, a funny guy. That’s just how he is. He’s a guy, he likes to talk a lot of trash. He just likes to get up under people’s skin. That’s just his personality, period.”
Teammates like to dish it back to Ingles, too.
“I’ve got comebacks,” Favors said.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who's out for Game 2, has poked fun of the 29-year-old’s slightly receding hairline a couple of times on Twitter, including recently when he said older men can get an Ingles haircut instead of one mimicking his or Gordon Hayward’s ’dos in an upcoming Jazz playoff promotion.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said Ingles will even try to razz him like he does his teammates.
“Oh yeah,” Snyder said. “He’s just not very funny with me.”
“We share some laughs,” Ingles said of his relationship with Snyder. “But you guys know him.”
Snyder has a good sense of humor, but he’s also quite intense.
“Obviously the relationship we have, as most people kind of know, we get along well,” Ingles said. “He coaches me. We have laughs on the court at times. It’s a good working relationship.”
Part of that working relationship is what Ingles describes as “tough love.” Snyder doesn’t see it quite like that, but he does admit to purposely not taking it easy on Ingles.
“I think I’ve coached him hard,” Snyder said. “I’ve tried to be demanding with him. Really, you could also characterize that I have a lot of belief in him.”
Snyder’s appreciation for Ingles began in Europe when he was an assistant at CSKA Moscow and the well-traveled wing played in Spain.
“I saw him play,” Snyder said. “You see something in a player and you want to try to help them bring it out.”
Ingles said Snyder has always been demanding of him, which he likes because he wants honest feedback even if it’s brutally true.
“I think it’s been good for me,” Ingles said.
Snyder likes how Ingles' confidence, comfortability with teammates and leadership have grown.
"Joe’s been fun to coach because he has been responsive and receptive," Snyder said. "I’ve tried to be respectful, but I certainly haven't pulled any punches on him. I think the honesty in that relationship is something that’s improving (Ingles)."
Snyder was especially insistent that Ingles increase his defensive effort in his third NBA season. Knowing that the Jazz had a loaded wing rotation, the 6-foot-8 forward bought what his coach was selling him.
“Coming in, I was probably the fifth wing kind of looking at it from afar,” Ingles said. “To get out there and play and to stay on the court (the key) was going to be to play defense. He’s done it from day one, so it’s not like it’s something that’s come out of nowhere. I enjoy it. Hopefully, he’ll do it for another however long of my career is left.”
Ingles will be a restricted free agent this summer and figures to get a hefty pay raise from the $4.3 million he's made the past two years. Which brings us back to the Clippers and Ingles’ short stint there in the 2014 preseason. Rivers was hoping nobody would claim him and that L.A. could figure out a way to re-sign him after waiving him, but the Jazz snatched him up. Ingles said he found out while at a restaurant a day or two after he found out he’d been cut.
The Clippers might have regrets about how things worked out, but Ingles doesn’t. He’s found a home and role in Utah that he quite enjoys.
“It’s worked out perfectly,” Ingles said. “Obviously at the time when you first get cut, you’re pissed off and you wonder why. It works out. These guys called, and the things that have happened have happened. There’s no hard feelings from my point of view. I think it’s worked out. It’s worked out really well.”
Even if he occasionally annoys his teammates, they’re glad it’s worked out the way it has too.
"I don’t like anyone from any other team, even the Aussies when it comes down to it," Ingles said. "Once you get on the court, it is what it is."
And don’t expect Ingles to change when it comes to some of his annoying habits, especially trying to get under the skin of opponents and occasionally teammates.
“I’m going to continue it,” he said. With a laugh, Ingles added, “You mean (to) players or media?”
It’s never scripted, by the way.
“I don’t get into games kind of predicting something,” he said. Ingles quickly noted one exception. “I do Dante.”
Maybe Exum can commiserate with Redick one of these days.