BEIJING, China — Reinaldas Seibutis was just trying to tie his shoe during a dead ball, but Joe Ingles wasn’t having it.
Any time the Lithuanian veteran was close to finishing the loop on his laces, Ingles would kick away the potential knot, laughing the whole way through. Andrew Bogut wanted play to resume so he let out a quick “c’mon, Joe!” So Ingles subsided; his eyes quickly zoning on on his opponent’s attempt to inbound the ball.
That’s the Joe Ingles we’ve seen more and more of during the 2019 FIBA World Cup. It’s one who makes sure to bring joy every time he steps onto the court, but, when the times comes, he’s able to lock in on the task at hand.
Against France, you could see a glint in Ingles’ eye when any opportunity came to get a score on his Utah Jazz teammate, Rudy Gobert. He did it three times; twice on made three-pointers, and one high-arching layup over the lofty Frenchman. Ingles, naturally, stared Gobert into the abyss.
Whether it’s during a game, when he banters with opposing players or referees, or during a practice where he’ll sh*t-talk Jock Landale, Ingles is playing with a lot more joy.
It comes in the same year Ingles’ son, Jacob, was diagnosed with autism; the family going through the struggles of adapting to the life of best providing for a young child on the spectrum.
Ingles channels that experience when he plays, but it doesn’t limit him; in fact, it may be making him a more effective player.
“When you go through things off the court, it brings a lot of perspective to the game,” Ingles told foxsports.com.au.
“I’m very lucky to be in the position I’m in, with Utah and the national team. We all started playing basketball as kids because we love playing, and the joy for me is coming out here and representing my country.”
That mindset allows Ingles to remain one of the Australian Boomers’ most reliable players when the pressure is the greatest.
His demeanour is consistent from the moment he steps on the floor and starts talking trash to an opponent – always with his sly grin – to the short walk through FIBA’s mixed zone, where he’s been among the most talkative and accessible Australians.
Everything Ingles does seemingly comes with the purpose of extracting as much joy out of it as possible. Even when checking out of a game – usually Chris Goulding takes his place late in the first quarter, or early in the second – Ingles makes sure to act like he’s annoyed at the substitution.
“I have to try to say something nice to cheer him up before he gets to the bench,” Goulding told foxsports.com.au.
“You’ve gotta take the enjoyment whenever you can, take the lighter situations, because these are high-pressure situations, because these are high-pressure games,” Goulding continued, on Ingles’ demeanour.
“A lot of the pressure of these games are falling on five or six of our main guys. He’s a pivotal part of how we play, and when he’s free and loose and happy, he plays really well.
“He’s been great, will continue to be great, and if he plays better when he’s happy, we’ll try to make him happy.”
The interesting part about the way Ingles carries himself on the court is: everybody seems to be in on it. Opposing players react positively, while officials generally laugh along with Ingles, even when he’s contesting a call.
Again, it’s always clear that the trash-talk is absent animus, and is instead coming from a guy who likes to make jokes, and wants to make the most of every second he’s out on the court.
“It’s not taking that too far that you disrespect the game, or not taking it seriously, but I enjoy playing basketball,” Ingles said.
“I’m lucky to be in the position I’m in.”