Joe Ingles
Joe Ingles has been a difference maker for the Jazz (Gene Sweeney/Getty Images North America)

I’ve always been a fan of Joe Ingles, especially because he is one of those players that doesn’t look like an athlete when you first look at him. After his outstanding performance in Game 4 against the Thunder, many Twitter users started the comparison between him and a math teacher. But don’t judge a book by its cover, Ingles is definitely no math teacher. Instead, he has become one of the most important pieces of the Utah Jazz.

Ingles played in Europe for several years. His first experience was with Granada in Spain, after just one season there he moved to powerhouse Barcelona, where he spent three successful seasons. Then, in 2013-2014, he moved to Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel, where he won his first Euroleague title under David Blatt’s guide. During that season, Ingles did what he was great at it: played great defense, shot the ball very well and was the hidden playmaker of the team. After his experience with Maccabi, rumors about his potential move to the NBA started to swing around. I had several friends in the USA reaching out to me and asking me info about this Joe Ingles. “Hey man, who’s this guy? Is he any good? Can he help my team?”, you know, the kind of questions that you receive when you know a player but your interlocutor doesn’t know anything about him. And it wasn’t surprising that many people in the USA didn’t know much about Ingles, I mean, he was a solid player in Europe but wasn’t exactly the definition of a superstar. He was the glue-guy of a team, not the star. But the things he used to do in Europe, I felt he had the potential to translate them also in the NBA. After watching him play in Game 4 against Oklahoma City, I realized that Ingles has become just way more than I ever expected. His ability to completely shut down a superstar like Paul George, the confidence in his three-point shooting, they were just out of the world.

Was it surprising? Yeah, but since his arrival in the league, Ingles has constantly improved and everything is achieving now shouldn’t be so surprising. In the 2016-2017 season, Ingles averaged 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, he shot 44% from the three-point line. Last summer he signed a four-year $52 mln deal to stay with the Jazz after becoming a restricted free-agent. Many thought that after the big payday, Ingles would have stopped his growth but that was a hell of a mistake. In this season, in fact, Ingles has improved in basically every single statistical aspect, he averaged 11.5 points, 4.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds, shot 44.2% from the three-point line, 46.7% from the field (an improvement over the 45.2% of last season) and 79.5% from the free-throw line (also here an improvement over the 73.5% of last season). His ability to move off the ball is leaving OKC defense without a clue. Ingles worked and improved his game so much in the last few years that now his contract extensions looks like a bargain and those who didn’t believe in him in the past are biting their hands. Yep, because Ingles was cut by the Los Angeles Clippers before the Jazz decided to take a chance on him.

In fact, in the 2014-2015 season, Ingles was originally signed by the Clippers and spent the preseason with the team. Before the last game, Ingles, as he explained in an interview, called his wife Renae and asked her to come to LA because he was sure that he was going to make the team for the season. While his wife was on the plane to California, Ingles was informed by the Clippers that they weren’t going to keep him for the season and that he could start looking for a new team. Imagine the scene: having your wife coming all way from Australia to celebrate the fact of playing in NBA and then having to tell her that you have no contract and you have to move again. But the uncertainty didn’t last long for Ingles, Quin Snyder decided to claim his contract from the waivers and gave him a chance with the Jazz. Snyder had worked in Europe as an assistant coach for CSKA Moscow under current Spurs associate head coach Ettore Messina, he played against Ingles and he knew how smart he was. He immediately understood that Ingles could have become a fundamental piece of what he wanted to build in Salt Lake City. His shooting, his basketball IQ, his defense and his hard-working mentality, all those elements were invaluable to coach Snyder and that’s why Ingles is still there and is becoming more important day after day.

From being a glue guy in Europe to become a key part of a playoff contender, it could be a long road but Joe Ingles made it look easy and has proved a lot of people wrong. I don’t think I’ll ever receive again the questions that I received four years ago: ‘Who’s this guy? Is he any good?”, Ingles has now made a name for himself.

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