Joe Ingles seeking consistency in reserve role for Australia

Joe Ingles is still working his way back from a knee injury two years ago. And finding consistency with Australia will be key to that recovery. (Photo by YUICHI YAMAZAKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Joe Ingles is still working his way back from a knee injury two years ago. And finding consistency with Australia will be key to that recovery. (Photo by YUICHI YAMAZAKI/AFP via Getty Images) /

The last two seasons have been a long journey for veteran Joe Ingles.

Ingles was coming off a career season, averaging 12.1 points per game and 4.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from beyond the arc. The Utah Jazz were emerging as one of the up-and-coming teams in the Western Conference.

Ingles was the steady hand who helped orchestrate the offense and space the floor with 3-pointers. The Jazz were just better with him on the court.

His ACL injury was a major setback. Something that hurt the Jazz as a team because of this positive impact. But it forced Ingles to have to reset himself at an older age. He was decent for the Milwaukee Bucks last year, but there was obviously work for him to do to get all the way back.

The Orlando Magic have paid a big price — a two-year, $22 million deal with a team option on the second year — to try to get Ingles back up to speed, taking advantage of his passing and shooting skill. The goal for Ingles is to find consistency.

And the first place he will have to do that is for his national team at the FIBA World Cup. Australia are favorites to medal after winning the bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Ingles has been a key player for his national team for several Olympic and World Cup cycles.

Joe Ingles is still working himself back into rhythm after his knee injury two years ago. The Orlando Magic are waiting to see if he can find consistency with Australia at the World Cup.

This summer he is taking something of a backseat, coming off the bench in Australia’s tuneup games. But for the veteran forward, it has been just as important for him to find his consistency not only for his national team but for himself ahead of this season.

That is a work in progress quite clearly.

Unlike Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner in their efforts with their national teams, Joe Ingles is closer to Moe Wagner in his role at the World Cup. Ingles is going to do all the things the Magic will ask him to do for his national team.

So watching his box score will be key to understanding what he can bring to the Magic this season.

Ingles is not expected to be a major contributor to Australia. He is likely coming off the bench at either small or power forward (he is 6-foot-8 and spent 36 percent of his minutes at power forward last year according to Basketball-Reference).

Still, it is clear from looking at box scores to these warmup games that either Ingles is easing himself back into playing or he is still getting himself comfortable back on the court.

Ingles opened his run with the national team with 12 points in nearly 17 minutes, shooting 3 for 6 from three in Australia’s 97-41 win over Venezuela.

This game saw the Boomers look to get others on the roster involved and it shows in Ingles’ stat line with an uncharacteristic one assist against four turnovers. This was the opening game, so it was expected to be a bit sloppy.

Still, this was the best Ingles performed in his pre-World Cup run.

In his next game, Ingles scored just eight points on 2-for-5 shooting, adding in five assists, in Australia’s 90-86 loss to Brazil. It is clear Ingles can make an impact with his passing — he is one of the best passing forwards in the league — but his shooting is still his biggest value. Australia broke even with Ingles on the floor, so it was a teamwide problem in this defeat.

Ingles returned to action when Australia left home for Okinawa, helping Australia defeat France 78-74. Ingles had just five points through on 2-for-5 shooting in the game, adding three assists. Joe Ingles appeared to be on the floor at the end of the game too when Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey took over to secure the huge victory.

For Ingles, though, this paints the picture that he is struggling a bit to find his shot. He is still contributing and still a valuable veteran for this team.

Unlike for Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner, Joe Ingles is not trying to add something new to his game. He is not reinventing the wheel. Instead, this World Cup for him individually is about getting back to what he was good at.

That itself will carry over to the Magic. They are hoping to see him return to the form he showed when he was with the Jazz.

Even though his raw numbers took a dip from the highs the previous season in 2021, the Jazz were still just as good with him — a +8.2 net rating in 2021 after the team went +11.8 points per 100 possessions in 2020. His torn ACL brought that all to a close. The Jazz lost the grease that kept the wheel moving smoothly.

And Ingles had to rehab. That was his task last year as he returned from the ACL injury he suffered in late January 2022.

Ingles was still getting his legs back under him even in the Milwaukee Bucks’ spread-it-out style. He averaged only 6.9 points per game and 3.3 assists per game in 22.7 minutes per game. He shot 40.9 percent from deep still. But he appeared in only 46 games.

Milwaukee still had a +2.5 net rating with Ingles on the floor. He can still make a positive impact with the minutes he was given. But it is clear that he was still getting his feet back under him.

Ingles said when he arrived in Summer League to be with the Orlando Magic contingent supporting the team in Las Vegas that he was feeling as healthy as he has felt since the injury. But at 35 years old (he turns 36 in October before the season begins), Ingles is still seeking the consistency he needs to return to where he was before the injury.

That is what his World Cup run will be about.

Things will obviously be a bit different once he arrives in Orlando for training camp. But they will not be that different. The Magic will rely on Ingles to be a passer from the top of the key and keep things moving and to hit open threes when the ball works to him.

That is exactly what Australia is asking him to do.

Next. Orlando Magic completing training camp roster. dark

During the next month, Ingles will do all he can to help Australia win a medal. And this team is one of the favorites to be on the podium at the end of it. But for Ingles individually, finding his comfort is going to be critical for his success.