Joe Ingles really grew on me as the season progressed. I don't get a chance to watch a lot of non-NBA non-WNBA non-NBADL games, so I did not have a handle on who he was as a player. The Utah Jazz must have felt like he was better than Carrick Felix, or Kevin Murphy, or Dahntay Jones (cut during training camp), and better than fellow Australian forward Brock Motum. Initially I felt like his utility would be that of an off-the-court help to Jazz rook Dante Exum. Right? I couldn't have been the only one to think that. The 27 year old started his NBA rookie season off with less than impressive play on the court. He would pass up shots (which breaks plays just as much as someone calling their own number too frequently), and the shots he would take were not one that went in enough. I was surprised to see Quin Snyder use him against Carmelo Anthony so much in that game @ the New York Knicks, especially in the fourth quarter. But this just shows that people within the organization knew much more about Ingles than I did. They had seen him play before he joined the Jazz, and while I caught some of the FIBA World Cup, I honestly will say that I saw more of the tune up games than the actual ones. Thankfully, the professionals knew what they were doing when they brought Ingles to the Jazz.
Now that the season is over they have to make a decision on him, will they keep Ingles as Jazzman?
If you ask him, and Aussie basketball reporter Boti Nagi did, he wants to return.
Ingles initially went to Utah on a non-guaranteed contract which was upgraded. A free agent now, he is a little unsure what the future holds, though he would love a Jazz recall.
"The coach was great and so were the staff, the players, the fans and the organisation," he said, the Jazz in a building mode and Ingles a smooth fit.
"Renae also loved it there and the lifestyle - I want her to be happy when she's visiting me as well."
Ingles will have options but he enjoyed the team immensely, even if he had to embrace being a "rookie" and wearing a back-pack bearing the characters from Disney's "Frozen" movie.
"You cop it a bit from opposition fans but it's part of the ritual and fun," he said. "This was a quiet team and I'm quite loud. You look at our guys and they're all quiet - Dante is a quiet guy - but they're super-friendly, super nice and very professional.
"It was an unbelievable experience - I still pinch myself it all happened. To start in 30 games, to win 38 when a lot of people didn't expect us to get to 20, it was pretty amazing."
First, that article is a must-read because it goes over his transition process, the relationship he has with Dante Exum, and other Jazz tid-bits that all fans would want to read. It also explores a bit more his philosophy and background from when he was a younger player till today, and talks about his family situation. He's going to get married to Renae Hallinan this off-season, and she is a world class baller as well. These are good peeps to keep around in the Jazz family.
And I think it's clear that everyone loves Joe, and appreciates how vocal he is. You need these locker room glue guys, and Ingles is precisely that. But he's also instructive and communicates when he's on the court, and for a team that had an average age of 23 you need that just as much.
Back in November I wasn't a Joe Ingles fan. But in the months before the NBA Draft and NBA Free Agency start I cannot accept not bringing him back on a three year contract (with a fourth year team option). Of course, I'm not a decision maker for the team. And as we know, that's a good thing -- I wouldn't have even signed Joe off of waivers. And now I can't live without him as a Jazzman.
Soooo.... the NBA Playoffs is a thing. It hasn't been *much* of a thing though. From the poor pregame "hype" videos / music videos to the actual games themselves, this post-season leaves something to be desired. The Golden State Warriors (West 1), Cleveland Cavaliers (East 2), and Washington Wizards (Eat 5) all swept their first round opponents out of the Playoffs about 10 or so days after the NBA regular season ended. The Memphis Grizzlies (West 5) may be the fourth team to sweep, as they play Game 4 tonight, and currently lead 3-0. Last night the Dallas Mavericks avoided that fate by winning game four on their floor, but go back @ the Houston Rockets down 1-3. That's exactly where the Milwaukee Bucks are, after winning game four by two points -- but playing @ the Chicago Bulls tonight.
That's three sweeps, and another two that were five games in total. You figure the Atlanta Hawks (East 1) who are currently 2-1 on the Brooklyn Nets may go for five games total as well. So six of the eight total first round match-ups could be entirely non-competitive (Overall record of 28-3). Well, that record would require the Bulls, Hawks, Grizzlies, and Rockets finishing off the rest of their first round games with wins (needing 5 wins).
The only series that looks worth it right now are the West 3 seed, Los Angeles Clippers, against the indomitable San Antonio Spurs -- currently tied 2-2 after four games.
Would things be different if every team in the playoffs were a) at full strength, b) playing well at that moment in time, and c) lucky enough to get draws against teams they have a chance against? Yes. Of course, but reality doesn't work that way. We know this firsthand because of all the times the Utah Jazz got bounced by the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs, in a row. Part of being successful when the games matter involves luck, health, and the draw. You can only influence the draw by winning regular season games. And that in itself involves luck and health.
But when you are in the playoffs you have to play the games you can with the people you have available. And that's the #1 reason why I'm not crazy about the theory that the Jazz need to go for broke trying to make the playoffs right now. That's the goal for the players -- who want to win now. But that shouldn't be the goal for the front office. What's the point beyond ego stroking and a 1/16th playoff pool share to make the playoffs if you get swept?
It's a good experience, I guess.
Making the playoffs behind your young core guys is different than making the playoffs with those guys sitting and watching. That's what happened last time. And that set the development of our team back. On twitter and other social media platforms I hear some Jazz fans talk about adding vets in order to help secure a playoff bit next season; in effect, looking for 'upgrades' at specific positions where very young guys manned the spot in 2014-15.
It's possible that if the Jazz front office did that they could make a better case for themselves in the crowded West, but to what end? To get decapitated by a team like the Warriors or Rockets? We know that you have to learn to crawl before you can walk. But in the Western conference sometimes in order to make a mark in the playoffs you have to walk while other teams run into the buzz saws.
What's the point of having so many former San Antonio guys in your front office if you don't learn the #1 thing that made them champions -- be very choosy with when you target being good. I think Jazz GM Dennis Linsey is doing exactly that. Which is why fans of the "upgrade the PG with a vet who can start and lead us to the playoffs" theory will be as disappointed as the "Bring back Tyrone Corbin as head coach" theorists.
Our Most Improved Player hopeful, bigman Rudy Gobert, had a stand up interview on French TV where he talks about his last season, and improvement, and more. Watch it!
Also, sorry it's in French, it was a very important language a few centuries ago. (Or if you are Canadian, a very important language that is both equal but still distinct today.) Rudy does feel as thought he was always good, but just needed an opportunity -- one where the coaching staff and his fellow teammates gave him this last season. And that they had confidence in him, and his hard work proved them right.
Furthermore, he believes that he has reached a plateau in his game; but it's not that he's reached his max ability just yet. The interviewer elicits a comparison between Gobert and Joakim Noah (Rudy's stats ARE better, as he points out); however, Rudy is humble and cites differences in the team play, role, and conference.
As an aside, you could tell that Enes Kanter wanted to be all Hollywood, with the glam, the image, the perks, and so forth. He wants to be a star. But Rudy Gobert, while a very intense player on the court, is super chill off of it. And he's playing like a star. And as a Jazzfan, you love that.
If you have been following along there are a number of Jazz extended family members that we can still track as our season is over. Kendrick Perkins sent the NBA back to the 1970s with this screen he set on Jae Crowder yesterday:
Also, some background here, Crowder made the mistake of telling the press he wasn't intimidated by anyone on the Cavs. So, there. Also, as Moni identifies, Andrei Kirilenko and Kyrylo Fesenko are doing their thing in Europe.
AK-47 was recently the Player of the Week too!
I am a little too anti-playoff-y with my rants. I recognize that, and apologize if that offends you. I love wins, I love being in the playoffs. But I don't want our team to get there and be "in a rush" to get swept, or reduce their overall max potential by trying to shift gears in the middle of a race here. We know that you can get stuck in those #7 to #10 seed doldrums. Many teams get stuck there for eternity. I don't think that's what Dennis Lindsey wants for this team. And I've been vocal about what I want. But what do YOU want? What should the focus be on next season? How do you break down winning now and development?
(As an aside, if you develop the players properly, wins will happen automatically -- I think we all agree with that. But that's not an option in this poll.)