Our Joe leading from front in Utah
AUSTRALIAN swingman Joe Ingles has become an inspiring voice in the Utah Jazz locker room as teammates look to the veteran to help guide them out of their NBA mire.
The injury-riddled side has struggled to cope with one of the toughest schedules to start the NBA season, losing 13 of their last 16 games.
At 16-24, it's a long way back, but there is optimism Ingles' example can help inspire a push to the playoffs - they're four games behind New Orleans for the last spot in the Western Conference.
"Everybody's been pulling for each other and Joe is one of the keys to that," Utah's executive director, basketball operations and global scouting Richard Smith said.
"Our team looks to him for a lot of leadership, not only on the court but off.
"He's just such a smart guy, knows the game and may not be as athletic as some guys out there, but he makes up for it with his diligence, his smarts and his awareness.
"He's such a great young man and he has a great young family with he and (former star Aussie netballer) Renae and the twins and they're just a great part of the Salt Lake community."
Nine different Jazz players, including compatriot Dante Exum, have missed time through injury, but not Ingles, whose toughness helps keep him on the floor as one of the team's key playmakers.
"He's got a certain toughness and that's what we find with a lot of Australians," Smith said.
"They attribute that (toughness), from a cultural standpoint, to the fact that a lot of young men, as kids, play rugby and Australian rules football.
"We're believers that seems to happen, because every guy that we know whether it's a Joe Ingles or a Dante Exum or Patty Mills or whoever it might be ... Those are the kind of guys we look for to try to add to our team."
The 30-year-old's story is well-documented. Cut by LA Clippers on the eve of his NBA debut, Ingles had to tell his partner, Renae, the bad news while she was on the plane to watch him. Luckily, the Jazz were ready to swoop.
"We had a quick meeting and discussed "hey, this just happened yesterday with the Clippers, what do you guys think about Joe Ingles?" and one thing led to another and it was a situation where we got a spot on our roster, we were able to bring him in and it's worked out great for both him and our organisation," Smith recalls.
Smith said he's not surprised the Boomer - who was third in the NBA in three-point percentage last season - has exceeded external expectations with the Jazz rewarding his efforts with a fat four-year US$52 million deal in the offseason.
"I can't say it's been a surprise, because we thought he was a good player when we got him," he said.
"Maybe Joe wouldn't be as effective if he was with another team or another organisation in terms of how they play, but with us, the way we play, I think his skills and his mindset and approach just worked in almost seamlessly from the beginning."
Smith said Utah's goal was to "still have our head above water" at the All Star break and then make a run when injured stars like towering centre Rudy Gobert return to the court.