City of Ingles

This NBA season shapes to be the most unpredictable season yet.  The Heat lost LeBron James, Paul George will be watching from his couch, pressure mounts in Oklahoma City and San Antonio is reportedly a year older (not yet confirmed).

Then there is the Los Angeles Clippers.

For a team operating in the same class as San Antonio and OKC, the Los Angeles Clippers lack championship-caliber firepower on the wings . Last season, Jared Dudley battled the midnight munchies niggling injuries, Hedo Turkoglu was out of shape, and Reggie Bullock was just a rookie feeling his oats. Doc Rivers ultimately relied on veteran Matt Barnes to soak up minutes at small forward. Indeed, Barnes provided that healthy dose of crazy every championship team needs, but his inconsistent shooting remained a source of frustration for Coach Doc.

Still, the Clips improved its roster this offseason. Spencer Hawes should be a court-spacing salve and DeAndre Jordan will be embarking on his second season under Rivers. Really, the Clippers’ rotation is fixed aside from that wretched three-spot.

Stage left, Joe Ingles, who recently pinched his first (non-guaranteed) NBA contract.

There were reasons to dislike Ingles’ decision to reject Memphis overtures last year and commit to another European season. He seemed a neat piece for a Grizzlies team that lacked production at the three-spot. With Tayshaun Prince declining and Quincy Pondexter eventually succumbing to injury, playing time would have surely presented itself for Ingles.

The trade off was winning a Euroleague championship with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Heck, that’s not a bad alternative. And yet, rejecting a guaranteed contract from Memphis was a risky move in a fickle NBA landscape. Someone’s ‘time’ is always running out in the NBA and so the safe bet is usually to clamber at the nearest offer.

“I had a guarantee with them [Memphis] and I get asked a lot why. Everyone thinks I’m crazy for doing it,” Ingles told Grizz and Tizz on the Downtown podcast.  “But the three years in Barcelona was hard with playing time and sometimes you wouldn’t suit up just because of the amount of players we had. And so, I just wanted to go somewhere where I could just play, have fun and enjoy it.”

Playing time and opportunities also proved sporadic in Tel Aviv last season as he averaged just 6.8 points per game during the regular season in Israel, 2.9 points in the playoffs and 6.4 points amidst Maccabi’s stirring run to the Euroleague championship. He was ultimately David Blu’s backup. Good news: Ingles knocked down more than 40 percent of his threes last year.

“I don’t regret it. I got a Euroleague championship, which is something I’ll never forget,” revealed Ingles. “And that was probably the last little trophy I needed to get from Europe. So by having that, I don’t regret what I did. Maybe I should have done it, maybe I’ll never get the chance again.”

Well, the City of Angels has opened its gateways for Ingles, if you dare say, in the nick of time.

The NBA isn’t bursting with 6-8 wings that can draw fouls, extend defenses and dabble in some nifty playmaking. That void has only inflated the free-agency market for them with the generous contracts offered to Chandler Parsons and Gordon Haywood this summer representing the league’s desire for productive rangy forwards. Of course, Utah’s youth and Mark Cuban’s Texas feud with Daryl Morey probably played its part, but the point still rings true.

Ingles can fit well in Los Angeles.

Ingles’ performances at the FIBA World Cup this year showed that he has worked himself into a more well-rounded player since he excited scouts at the London Olympics in 2012.

In fact, former Boomers coach Brett Brown compared his potential in 2012 to a familiar NBA name.

“Joe’s got a body like Tayshaun Prince,” Brown explained. “He’s long, left-handed, multi-faceted at guard or small forward, he’s stepped up in defence to take personal pride in guarding people and you’ve seen his competitive spirit here,”

With Turkoglu no longer able to consistently run a string of pick-and-rolls, Ingles might be a sneaky alternative for Rivers to utilize at times this season.

Of course, Joe won’t burn you in the open court or create meaningful separation off the bounce against NBA-ready athletes, but he possesses a refined sense of how to exploit angles and use a defender’s momentum to his own advantage.

Ingles’ length (6’10 wingspan) is a necessity for any prospective wing defender in the NBA. He’s not a stopper, mind you, but there’s something to be said for sprinkling a roster with competitive beasts willing to sacrifice their bodies for the team’s benefit.

However, the real dividends come at the free throw line, where Ingles displays a sort of Corey Maggette-lite ability. This might be how Ingles cracks into the Clips’ rotation and earns a guaranteed contract. In those rare minutes when Griffin and Paul sit on the pine, Ingles can stress defenses that tread in the bonus.

He could be a straight steal for the Clippers. We’ve seen it before where teams make surprising discoveries in the basement. San Antonio stumbled upon Gary Neal and Danny Green, and the Rockets found a beauty in Patrick Beverley.

But let’s hold up for a second and temper our expectations. In many ways, Ingles is still an unknown quality in basketball. On one hand, he dominates in the green and gold. And yet, Euroleague box scores suggest Ingles is more of a wildcard than a force of nature.

That’s not necessarily a damning thing; petty politics, stingy league rules and a ‘win now’ mentality can sway player personnel decisions in Europe and depress a player’s overall value. Nonetheless, we still need to see if Ingles can consistently nail the three and stay mentally locked in over the long haul, and against finer competition.

Aside from a 20-minute master class against Lithuania, Ingles tended to drift in-and-out of games at the FIBA World Cup in Spain. Is that a little harsh? Maybe. After all, he’s more of a playmaker with a team first attitude than a volume shooter.

The Clippers are a title contender and one of the favourites to survive the slugfest in the Western Conference. Time is precious for contending teams and patience isn’t a given.

Rivers has whiffed on the idea of playing Jordan, Griffin and Hawes together in short bursts. Where could this leave Ingles? Well, contending teams love known commodities, but Ingles’ minimum deal renders him a worthy low risk/high reward candidate that the Clips should pursue.

Some players experience a moment that defines their basketball trajectory. Sure, Ingles is only 27-years-old. But you just never know. With LA’s wing stocks looking thin, this preseason could be defining for Ingles’ career, and make his decision to reject the Grizzlies a distant one.


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