I’m not going to go out and shoot 20 shots a game because I got paid a little bit more money or anything like that. I’m going to play the style of play that got me here in the first place, that stuck me here for three years and got me here for another four. —Joe Ingles
SALT LAKE CITY — It won’t be a surprise if Joe Ingles is in the starting lineup for the Utah Jazz when they open the regular season Wednesday night at home against the Denver Nuggets.
That would have been an unthinkable proposition three years ago when he was claimed off waivers by the Jazz just as the 2014-15 season was getting underway in what was Quin Snyder’s first year as head coach.
While the 6-foot-8 Ingles has started 60 games over the past three seasons, this will mark the first time he will open the season as a starter unless Snyder surprises us Wednesday night.
Over the past three seasons, Ingles has been known for his 3-point shooting, which at 44.1 percent ranked No. 4 in the NBA and was the highest percentage for a Jazz player with as many attempts (279) as he had.
Besides the shooting, Ingles has developed into a reliable passer and defender, often taking the opponent’s best player, and has become known for his durability. In three seasons with the Jazz, he hasn’t suffered a significant injury and has missed just four games total. Last year he was one of just 17 players in the NBA to play in all 82 regular-season games.
Although he finished with what seems like modest numbers of 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, the Jazz signed him to a four-year, $52 million contract that will keep him in Salt Lake until 2021.
So where has Ingles been all preseason? We’ve hardly heard a word about the guy who turned 30 earlier this month with all the talk about dynamic rookie Donovan Mitchell, resurging Alec Burks, new point guard Ricky Rubio and newcomers Thabo Sefalosha and Ekpe Udoh, not to mention returning starters Rodney Hood, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors and sixth-man Joe Johnson.
Ingles had a fairly quiet preseason, finishing just 13th on the team in scoring at 4.6 points per game, while shooting 33.3 percent from the field and making just 4 of 16 3-point attempts.
But Ingles says he’s doing “great” and ready for another solid season, but not to expect much different from him from last year.
“I feel good, I feel healthy,” he says. “I’m not going to go out and shoot 20 shots a game because I got paid a little bit more money or anything like that. I’m going to play the style of play that got me here in the first place, that stuck me here for three years and got me here for another four.”
Ingles sees himself as a glue-type player who complements his teammates with his overall play on the court.
“We’ve obviously got some guys that are going to be pretty big pieces, so I’m going to do what I do, I’m going to fill in the holes and fill in the gaps and play defense and shoot the ball when I’m open,” he said.
Ingles, who is known as one of the funnier and laid-back guys on the team, had a good laugh with the media when he misspoke and said he was going to “pass the ball when I’m open.” He corrected himself to say, “pass the ball when I’m not open” and then laughed and said, “I’ll also pass the ball when I’m open a few times as well.”
Snyder is still high on Ingles, but cut his minutes during the preseason, while he got a good look at players such as Mitchell, Burks and Sefalosha, who will all be getting minutes out on the wing along with Ingles.
Snyder told Ingles what he tells all his players — “If you play D, you’re going to play. That’s the say to stay on the floor.” And that’s what turned him into a starter late last season.
Ingles’ playmaking skills are also underrated as he more than doubled his assist average last year and came up with a team season-high 11 assists in a Game 4 playoff win over the Clippers.
So anyone looking for a more spectacular version of Joe Ingles this season might be disappointed.
“I’m going to do what I do,” he said. “I’m not going to change who I am.”
JAZZ NOTES: After Wednesday’s opening game, the Jazz head back to Minnesota for a Friday night game before returning home to face Oklahoma City Saturday night at Vivint Arena. Then it’s back on the road for games Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers and Wednesday against the Phoenix Suns before four straight home games. NBA rosters must be trimmed to 15 by Monday. The last Jazz roster spot is believed to be between forward Joel Bolomboy and guard Royce O’Neale.