He's good. Sneaky little guy — not like he had camouflage or anything, we see him right there, and he's not the fastest guy in the world, he's just a good basketball player. —Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, on Joe Ingles
Right after a lengthy film session inside the team hotel in downtown Houston, some of the Utah Jazz players used the free time to explore the city on their own.
Pushing a stroller in a dad hat, jeans and his customary Chuck Taylor All-Stars, Joe Ingles didn’t have to worry about pesky paparazzi or autograph seekers while spending time with his wife, Renae, and twins, Milla and Jacob.
Even at 6-foot-8, the Aussie blended in just perfectly while grabbing a bite to eat on the second floor of the Houston Center.
As normal as he may look — both on and off the court — the three-point marksman is no longer catching NBA teams by surprise.
After burning the Houston Rockets for a career-best 27 points and seven three-pointers to win Game 2, Houston didn’t make the same mistake of letting him go off during Game 3 as Ingles ended with six points in the 21-point loss on Friday night.
“He’s good,” said Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni. “Sneaky little guy not like he had camouflage or anything, we see him right there, and he’s not the fastest guy in the world, he’s just a good basketball player.
“Smart, picks his time, knows went to walk into a three, knows when you’re back a little bit,” he added. “He runs a little bit off of Donovan Mitchell, too.”
Ingles’ physical appearance can easily be confused with an average Joe, but he has gained an abundance of American fans through his postseason run against the Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder.
His fun-loving personality, elite trash talking against the league’s top stars and untraditional left-handed jump shot has made him relatable to fans. Without blinding speed or freakish athleticism, Ingles has used his basketball IQ to up his playoff average to 14.8 points while shooting 48.4 percent from beyond the arc in an era where guys like him don’t exist.
When Ingles entered Vivint Arena ahead of Game 3 in the OKC series, a cluster of ESPN cameras and photographers trailed him to the locker room to for photos and B-roll footage.
“Fellas, you’ve got the wrong guy,” Ingles told the crowd. “I’m in a $20 t-shirt.”
Ingles also jawed back and forth with Thunder All-Star Paul George then playfully embraced MVP front-runner James Harden during a Jazz huddle to display his snarky humor. His silly antics and hot shooting are now going viral on social media through the basketball community, but, just four years ago, the Los Angeles Clippers waived Ingles and left his NBA future in jeopardy until the Jazz took a chance. This past offseason, Utah locked up Ingles on a four-year, $52 million contract.
In his fourth season, Ingles didn’t disappoint as he posted the league’s fourth-highest 3-point percentage (44.0) as one of the most improved players.
“I think over the course of the last few years, there hasn’t been a point where we really wanted to put a ceiling on him,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “He couldn’t touch it if we did — I’m talking about his jumping ability.
“You’re supposed to laugh at that,” he joked. “But I think in the beginning with his shooting, just getting more and more confident and then getting more comfortable in pick-and-roll where he has become a playmaker on the wing.”
But even now, with the Jazz facing the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals, with games being played regularly on ESPN and TNT, it’s amazing that Ingles can walk around normally in the social media generation.
He’s not some attention-seeker, even during his international days in Australia, Spain, Israel and the Australian National Team, which prepared him for the NBA. But he’s never been afraid to share his humor to those around him, either.
“That’s just Joe’s personality. It’s not just on the court; it’s with everybody,” said Devin Smith, one of Ingles's Israeli teammates. “With coaches, staff, that’s just his personality and how he talks to people, but it makes him a genuine person.
“You gotta respect him,” he continued. “You just laugh at it, especially at the beginning when you hear his accent.”
Ingles invited Smith to Game 3 of the Jazz-Rockets series and treated him to a great time at Vivint Arena, even picking him up from his hotel ahead of the tipoff.
“Yeah, I’m over here trashing you,” Smith joked to Ingles, ahead of his pregame routine.
“It won’t be the first time,” Ingles responded, smirking.
Smith and Ingles starred for eventual Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt during the 2013-14 season for Maccabi Tel Aviv, where they won the EuroLeague championship.
Smith, 35, recently retired in 2016-17 after six seasons in Israel but keeps in touch with Ingles on a regular basis mainly though group chat. Ingles’ role may be a surprise to some, but Smith understands the game as an Italian Cup MVP and Israeli League Cup MVP winner that has won numerous overseas accolades.
“I think it’s about knowing how to play the game,” Smith said. “A lot of times, people get lost in athleticism and other things, but at the end of the day, if you know how to play you can get buckets.
“People might underestimate him, but also those open threes are also coming from his teammates, and you have to pick your poison.”