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Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles not overly optimistic NBA basketball will return this season

Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles said “every week that we go along it feels like there’s a less and less chance that we’re going to” see the NBA resume its season after the COVID-19 pandemic brought it to an abrupt halt last month.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — While many NBA players are optimistic about the possibility of the 2019-20 season resuming or being able to play playoff basketball, Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles has a slightly dissenting view.

“Honestly my personal opinion is every week that we go along it feels like there’s a less and less chance that we’re going to,” Ingles said on a Zoom conference call with local reporters Friday.

That’s not to say that Ingles isn’t hopeful. He noted that fans, players and people whose occupations rely on NBA activity are all hopeful for some sort of resolution and a path back to playing basketball, but it’s hard for Ingles to envision that path right now.

On the night of March 11 in Oklahoma City, when the Jazz were being tested for the coronavirus following Rudy Gobert’s positive test, and told they would need to self-quarantine for 14 days after returning to Utah, Ingles, who was admittedly less educated about COVID-19 than he is now, said he assumed after the two-week quarantine that things would return to normal.

Fast forward six weeks and the NBA along with the National Basketball Players Association are no closer to knowing when players might be able to lace up their sneakers and hit the hardwood than they were the day the league suspended its season.

On Wednesday, Thunder guard Chris Paul, the president of the NBPA, spoke to reporters and echoed the same message recently shared by NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

“This is a situation where no one knows,” Paul said. “The virus is actually in complete control.”

While potential return scenarios, such as playing without fans or playing at a neutral and isolated location, have been tossed around, the NBA has only listened to ideas and is nowhere near a decision-making phase.

As to the suggested scenario of the NBA playing in an isolated bubble-type situation, Ingles said that fear of bringing any type of infection back to his family would give him pause when considering anything like that.

“I don’t know if I’m ready to risk catching it and giving it to my family potentially and my kids with Milla and especially with Jacob,” he said.

Ingles and wife Renae became parents to twins Milla and Jacob in the summer of 2016. Jacob was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Children with autism disorder have reduced immune system regulation, which would put Jacob at a higher risk of complication if he were to contract the virus.

In addition to the health and safety, reasons for Ingles trepidation when considering a return to play, the idea of playing in an isolated bubble, which could potentially take him away from his family for weeks or months, does not appeal to him.

“It would be extremely hard,” he said. “It 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.”

Two days after the twins were born, Ingles was away from his family for six weeks to compete in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Ingles said that while the decision to leave his wife Renae with newborn twins was hard, leaving now and for a longer stretch would be even more difficult.

“Back then, as hard as it was, it was easier because they were just eating and pooping and that was it,” he said. “Now that they’ve got personalities, they know when I’m leaving, they tell me they miss me, that makes it a lot harder to leave. ... Two or three months without them would be borderline impossible for me.”

But, because no decisions have been made regarding canceling the season or a timetable for a return, Ingles continues to work out every morning and is trying to stay as ready as possible, though he says that’s easier said than done.

Used to a regimented schedule and every activity scheduled with the team in mind, along with the days now creeping up on when the NBA offseason would usually occur, motivation is hard to come by.

“It’s a lot harder than it seems,” Ingles said. “It’s hard when you’re used to playing with a team and everything is with a team, we fly together, we hang out together, everything is together, and all of us sudden, we get put in this position where we aren’t together.”

The isolation away from teammates is another reason Ingles is having trouble imagining the NBA season resuming or getting to play postseason basketball. Trying to jump back into things and reengage for playoff games would seem foreign after such a long hiatus.

Ingles counts himself as fortunate for being one of the players on the Jazz roster with a home gym, and a recently installed basketball hoop. He’s able to do more than some of his teammates who are in smaller apartments with limited training options.

As one of the fortunate ones, and with so much uncertainty looming, Ingles said he will continue working out until he is told to do otherwise.