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'Tears in his eyes' but it'll take more than a torn ACL to end Ingles' NBA career

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Expert
31st January, 2022
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Anyone who thinks this ACL injury will end Joe Ingles’ career hasn’t been paying attention to the tenacity this Boomers legend has shown for more than 15 years.

The Utah Jazz have confirmed the 34-year-old Australian suffered a torn ACL when his left knee buckled while driving to the hoop during the second quarter of their loss to the Timberwolves at Minnesota on Monday.

A non-contact incident, Jazz teammates and staff immediately feared the worst when Ingles went down and scans have confirmed the Olympic bronze medal winner will be out for the rest of the NBA season, facing up to a full year on the sidelines to rehabilitate the injury.

Off contract at season’s end, there have been suggestions this could be the end of the veteran forward’s career but Ingles has never been a quitter and unless he receives medical advice to the contrary, expect to see him back on court next year, almost certainly in the NBA.

Although it is unlikely to end his career, the injury will cost Ingles the chance to end Utah’s title drought in the playoffs as well as millions of dollars on his next contract.

Ingles is on a one-year extension at the Jazz worth $17.5 million ($US12.4m). He was likely to receive a lower offer from Utah or another team next season as he is in the twilight of his career but now that he is likely to miss the first half of the 2022-23 campaign, he will likely only get a deal worth significantly less, probably the veteran’s minimum range of $2m-$3m.

Jazz guard Mike Conley said there were “tears in his eyes” when he saw Ingles at half-time following the injury. “Just knowing how much this means for him, this game means to them and what we mean to him, you know, so it’s tough.

“That took a lot out of guys seeing him with tears in his eyes.”

Utah forward Bojan Bogdanovic admitted the team was distracted in the loss to the Wolves by their concerns for Ingles.

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“We were thinking about him all second half, trying to get information,” he said. “It was pretty bad to see him in pain… I hope it’s not as bad as it looks right now.”

Fellow veteran Rudy Gay added: “It’s not even about the basketball. Just having him in the locker room is good for us. He’s our guy.”

The Jazz later put out a statement which reported the “MRI revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee with no other structural damage. Ingles will remain out indefinitely with surgery taking place in the next several weeks. Further updates will be provided when appropriate.”

Ingles had been an iron man for the franchise since he joined them eight years ago when he was controversially cut by the LA Clippers before his first NBA game.

The Jazz’s all-time three-point leader, who has been averaging 7.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists in a bench role this season, has missed only 15 of 650 fixtures.

Former teammate Ricky Rubio, whose season was also ended recently when he suffered the same injury playing for Cleveland, posted his support on Twitter, saying “we will be back” and adding “the key to success is playing the hand you were dealt like it was the hand you wanted”.

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After starting his professional career with Melbourne’s South Dragons in the NBL as a teenager in 2006, Ingles had a lengthy stint in Europe before finally getting his shot in the NBA.

He went close to winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award last year in his first season coming off the bench but finished runner-up to teammate Jordan Clarkson.

Ingles was vital to the Olympic campaign in Tokyo last year when the Boomers won Australia’s first men’s basketball medal with victory over Slovenia in the playoff for third. The image of Ingles embracing long-time teammate Patty Mills after the game is one of the most iconic pictures in modern Australian sport.

Although his minutes had been reduced this year, he was still a key cog in Utah’s rotation despite speculation in recent weeks that he may have been traded so the Jazz could acquire a more athletic wing defender.

Utah topped the Western Conference last year but flamed out in the second round of the finals at the hands of the LA Clippers despite Kawhi Leonard going down with an ACL tear of his own.

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They were tipped to be contenders again this season but have tailed off after a promising start, slipping to fourth in the West with a 30-21 record on the back of a five-game losing streak.

With the Denver Nuggets (28-21) and Dallas Mavericks (29-22) nipping at their heels, they are in danger of losing home-court advantage in the post-season and they could still look to trade Ingles’ contract away as an expiring deal to bolster their squad.

Ingles has spoken previously about ending his career in the NBL but despite this setback, hopefully that is still at least a few seasons away.

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