SALT LAKE CITY — Joe Ingles’ non-traditional path of finding his way from overseas to the Utah Jazz has been well-documented.
The trash-talking, left-handed Australian mate started in the National Basketball League, then played in Spain and Israel before playing in five preseason games with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014 only to get waived.
That’s when the Jazz stepped in and took a chance and the rest is history.
“Joe’s been around a long time,” said Jazz big man Derrick Favors. “I was just talking to him the other day and I didn’t realize that he’s been playing professional basketball for 12, 13 years.
“He’s been around for a long time and he knows the game. He’s a smart player, he takes his time, he doesn’t rush his shot or anything. He just goes out there and plays his game,” he added. “I think that’s what’s been helping him throughout the years.”
On Saturday the Jazz beat San Antonio 125-105 at home, and if anyone understands the journey of what it took for Ingles to reach the NBA, it’s his fellow Aussie Pattie Mills of the Spurs.
As opposing players on the Jazz and Spurs rosters, Ingles and Mills went at it hard on the court, but their bond is deeper than basketball. Mills would end with 14 points, five assists and four rebounds off the bench for San Antonio while Ingles posted 11 points with three assists as a starter for Utah.
The competition between those two is nothing new, though.
“We played against each other probably when we were around 12 or 13 years old, around that age, then we played together when we were 15 so we’ve pretty much grown up with each other,” Mills said of Ingles. “Obviously, we know each other pretty well, our families know each other very well, so there’s a deep friendship and brothership that me and him have had and the pride that I have for him getting to where he’s at now and the path that he’s gotten.
“It’s not easy to do but he stuck with it and now he’s obviously the player that he is in the NBA now, one of the best shooters that we’ve ever seen here, so I’m pumped for him,” he continued. “Although we play against each other, he’s someone that I’m pumped for every time.”
Ingles currently ranks third all-time in Jazz history for 3-pointers made with nearly 600 for his career. Lately, his ball handling has improved as well as he’s played the point guard more often, especially during a January stretch where Ricky Rubio, Dante Exum and Raul Neto were all sidelined at the same time with injuries. He’s developed more confidence in pick-and-roll situations, particularly with Favors in the second unit.
“He reads the game really well,” Rubio said.
Mills is also a solid ball handler and they’re both proud to represent their country. Australia was among the league’s most represented countries with a record of nine players on opening-night rosters for the 2018-19 season, including Mills and Ingles, as the game continues to gain popularity in their homeland.Comment on this story
“He’s one of my closest friends,” Ingles said of Mills. “We grown up since 15, 14 years old together so to see him kind of go through his path of certain areas and kind of do what he did and get to Portland, where he wasn’t really playing, then with the Spurs to win a championship.
“He had a huge third quarter and obviously as a friend I’ll never forget that. He played really well for them,” Ingles recalled of Mills’ performance in the Game 5 of the 2014 NBA Finals. “I think he’s the longest Spur there now. Just a great guy, great friend and roommate on the road for the national team, which is hilarious, but he’s done a great job with those guys. The culture is a lot of it. He’s bought into it and kind of is that so I’m really proud of him.”