Most NBA fans in the USA are focused on Team USA’s success. Can Donovan Mitchell become the leader the Americans need? Can Kemba Walker defend on the world stage? How will the other young Celtics do? Can USA’s big men protect the paint? While Team USA is dispelling fears and rumors, the Aussies to the south are gaining a full head of steam. The main reason? None other than the Utah Jazz’s Joe Ingles who so far in FIBA plays has provided Australia with an upset win against the Americans and came 1 assist away from FIBA’s first recorded Triple Double.
Australia’s national team has a lot of advantages that Team USA—no matter the star power—will enjoy. They have been playing together for years, they’re a tight-knit group, and—most of all—they all have amazing Australian accents. Their team camaraderie might just prove to be the secret sauce to their success in this year’s FIBA World Cup. While the Americans may have superior talent, they just began playing together less than a month ago. They are naturally going to be unfamiliar with each other’s abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. The weakness of not knowing what you don’t know was never more evident when Team USA faced a Turkish team today that had that familiarity with each other.
Beyond just being comfortable with each other’s skills, the Australians have something that not even the Utah Jazz had last year: a reinvigorated Joe Ingles. It’s crazy to think that it was only February when the Ingles family let us in on a personal secret and struggle they had been facing since the birth of their twins. One of their children was born on the autism spectrum. They had been working to get the right help, counseling, and time to help them connect with their son, Jacob, and vice versa. The problem with being an NBA player is time is a rare commodity. That struggle had affected Joe both on and off the court.
Even after bringing all basketball fans into their corner, Joe Ingles was still in the midst of a down year. Joe Ingles was averaging 12.1 points a game on an eFG% of 56.5%. His lowest in three years. He looked tired and downtrodden. Before the news of his son, many fans worried Joe Ingles was starting to descend on the other side of his NBA career.
What a difference an offseason and FIBA can make.
With the break from basketball to focus on his family and FIBA, Joe Ingles looks like a new man. In only two games in FIBA play, Joe Ingles is averaging 15.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 9.0 assists a game. He’s shooting 50% from three. His defensive intensity looks to be back as he is averaging 1.5 steals and blocks a game. Joe Ingles appears to be reborn.
It’s no surprise then that the Aussies upset the Americans. Behind a scoring outburst from Patty Mills and Joe Ingles playing phenomenal point forward, the Aussies brought a win to their fans in Australia with the American’s sorrow being their gift.
While we have been singing Donovan Mitchell’s praises and what Utah’s potential is next season with his defense taking a step forward, the same optimistic outlook can be said of Joe Ingles with his FIBA reincarnation. The experience of leading Australia to dominant wins and upset victories can only empower Joe Ingles on a soon to be supercharged Utah Jazz team.
Looking at next season, Joe Ingles will most likely be coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz. His role off the bench will look very similar to his starting role with Australia now. Ingles will be expected to be the primary playmaker, the point forward. Last season many worried if it was prudent to continue to throw more playmaking responsibilities on Joe Ingles as he appeared to be careening downward due to the increased usage. But now? It looks like Joe Ingles is not only able for the task, but begging for that chance to be the alpha on the Utah Jazz’s second unit.
Regardless of what happens to Australia for the rest of FIBA, they have already achieved success. They have upset the Americans. They have dominated in group play. They have delivered their country a highlight win in front of 60,000 fans to inspire the next generation of Australian basketballers. Americans may be focused on Team USA and Donovan Mitchell, but by the real star of the FIBA show thus far has been Joe Ingles. All hail the Dad Bod God.