In the second quarter of Australia’s World Cup game against Germany on Sunday, Joe Ingles got the ball on the perimeter matched up with his future teammate Moe Wagner.
Wagner has the size and weight advantage against the somewhat unassuming Ingles. But Ingles was going to surprise him anyway. He drove left toward the rim (he is left-handed), initiated contact, pushing Wagner away from him, and hit a short hook over him for the basket.
Wagner turned to the ref looking for the push-off foul that never came. Ingles kept on talking. Wagner kept on talking.
There was no pull-apart or nothing extra-curricular about the events that occurred. It was a small moment that likely only Orlando Magic fans noticed as the team’s two players in this game (Franz Wagner sat out with a sprained ankle and remains day-to-day) went head to head.
They kept talking though as the game went on. In one late-game moment, it was clear Ingles and Wagner were still chirping at each other as much as they were chirping at the referees.
Germany took the win 85-82 to clinch their spot in the second round of the World Cup. Australia fell just short in a hotly contested game between two likely World Cup medal favorites.
The bigger lesson beyond the shore in Okinawa? Teams are going to hate playing the Magic this year. Not merely because they are a difficult team with tons of length and skill who seem poised to take another step up the ladder in the Eastern Conference.
The Orlando Magic will present a difficult team to face throughout the season because of their size and skill. Joe Ingles and Moe Wagner will make it more difficult with their constant talking.
No, the Magic are going to be a hated team around the league because they might have two of the quietest — or loudest — irritants in the league. Players who are going to test their teammates’ focus in practice just as much as they try to get under their opponents’ skins when they are on the floor.
Magic fans well know some of Wagner’s antics.
Teammates talk a lot about how Wagner is constantly talking during practices. That translates over to games too. Where Wagner can be a pest with his simplistic skills around the basket and his physical defense.
He is not above talking too much to opponents either. And he is not going to back down when a teammate needs protecting.
Moe Wagner notably got ejected for an ill-advised hip check against Killian Hayes in a December game in Detroit. But there were plenty of other instances where opponents shot back at Wagner and Wagner had to play innocent.
Joe Ingles, as Magic fans will soon learn, is wired much the same way.
He is not the physical presence Wagner is. But with Ingles’ shooting and surprising ability to get around the court, not to mention his penchant for hitting tough threes, Ingles has plenty to talk and chat about.
Ingles got at least one vote for best trash talker in the league during All-Star Weekend. Donovan Mitchell told J.J. Redick on The Old Man and the Three at the start of the 2023 season that Joe Ingles is the biggest ***hole in the league on the court. His words, not mine.
That is not necessarily what Ingles wants to be known for. He is an excellent shooter and a fantastic passer. But that is part of his game. It is part of his DNA.
And for a Magic team that is still new to the league, a little bit of edge to their game to push them is not the worst thing in the world.
Orlando is going to have this element as part of its team this season. The Magic have some quiet young leaders in Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter. They are not into playing mind games. They are more concerned with establishing themselves in the league.
There is a game between the game that goes on though. And the Magic are going to be searching for whatever edge they can find.
That might mean that there will be times when they will need Joe Ingles or Moe Wagner to mix things up and instigate a spark for the team. Even if it is about just boosting the confidence of the team.
Ingles and Wagner will make an impact on this team in this intangible way. They will have games where they get under their opponent’s skin and take them out of their game. That is part of their purpose. That is part of what they do.
They obviously have basketball skills beyond that. They are not only there to instigate and castigate opponents. Both are strong 3-point shooters. Both defend far better than people give them credit for. They both work very well in their roles — Ingles as a passer and Wagner as a screener.
This little extra personality though does have a positive impact for teams. Every team needs someone who can give the group a bit of extra motivation and egg them on in practice. It keeps things light.
They all need a player who everyone loves to be teammates with but knows they would hate if they had to line up against them.
Orlando has not had many of those in the franchise’s history in many ways — Scott Skiles, maybe Bo Outlaw and Matt Barnes come immediately to mind. Now the Magic have two and those reserve groups they play against are going to be in a torture chamber physically and mentally.
If every little bit will matter for the Magic to make the playoffs, then this could be the edge they ultimately need.