Utah Jazz v New Orleans Pelicans
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 6: Joe Ingles #2 of the Utah Jazz handles the ball during the game against the New Orleans Pelicans on January 6, 2020 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

Joe Ingles puts family first as he waits for the NBA's return and considers plans for his future

by Aaron Falk

There is an inflatable bounce house in a room of Joe Ingles’ Salt Lake City home. There are kiddie pools and water toys waiting for summer. There have been bike rides and afternoons with building blocks. And the closest the Utah Jazz forward has come to putting on a uniform in the past two months was the day he dressed up like Olaf, the snowman from the movie “Frozen”.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed so many aspects of our lives. It has upended our plans. For Ingles, it has thrown a promising NBA season into jeopardy. It has also provided the 32-year-old Aussie with opportunity and a renewed appreciation for what matters to him most.

And as Ingles considers the questions the future holds—Would he leave his wife and two children alone at home to finish out the season? When will it be time to retire? Would he ever want Matt Harpring’s job?—the answers will always be about family.

“Being with my kids all day can make for long days,” Ingles said Friday on a conference call with local media. “But it’s been awesome to get up with them every morning and be there to put them to bed. I don’t usually get to do that.”

Since the NBA season was suspended on March 11, Ingles and his family, his wife Renae and twins, Jacob and Milla, have stayed safe and sequestered together at home. The Jazz forward hopes the NBA season can safely resume, though he said he has some reservations about potentially exposing himself and his family to the Coronavirus.

“Obviously I would love to go back and play,” Ingles said. “On the flip side, I don’t know if I’m ready to risk catching it and giving it to my family, especially with Milla and Jacob. So all of the scenarios that have been thrown out, we’d have to debate it at the time.”

Ingles’ doubts about saving the 2019-20 season grow with each day. He has been working in his home gym and shooting on an outdoor hoop he just acquired.

“But it’s hard to find the motivation to leave [the kids] and go work out,” Ingles said.

It would be harder still to leave them for several weeks should the season resume with teams quarantined in a central location, such as Las Vegas.

"That would be basically the longest I've been away from the kids — which I don't know how much I'm willing to do that, as much as I love playing basketball,” Ingles said. “Leaving them for two or three months would be borderline impossible for me. But obviously we’ll wait until a decision is made.”

Ingles said he and his family were planning to remain in Utah this summer, even before stay at home orders were put in place. Renae Ingles’ netball career had required her to be in Australia for several months starting each April. With Renae retired from the game, the family had planned to remain for their first summer in the state. Though Ingles said he briefly considered returning to Australia after the magnitude 5.7 earthquake rocked Utah back on March 20.

“Milla was saying our house was shaking and our house in Australia doesn’t shake,” Ingles said.

The Ingleses hope to stay in Utah next summer, too. Though the proud Aussie said he will return to his native country whenever he retires. So when Jazz play-by-play man Craig Bolerjack asked Ingles if he would consider joining him on the broadcast one day, Ingles politely declined.

“We will be living in Australia when I’m done,” Ingles said. “I don’t think we can do color commentating via Zoom. But if we were going to live [in Utah] I would definitely steal Harpring’s job.”

Asked whether these recent developments had changed his thinking about his future and retirement plans, Ingles once again circled back to his family.

“When I signed that extension for another year, I thought it put me in a really good spot age-wise to make a decision on my career,” he said. “Do I want to stay here? Do I want to go back to Australia? “My whole plan was to play out my deal and make a decision after that. But if it’s time to go home and put them in school and settle down, that’s obviously my first priority. It’s not whether I want to keep playing. It’s a family deal.”

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