Joe Ingles is a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, but he hasn't played a game for them and won't do so before becoming a free agent in July. He still lives in Salt Lake City, where he played from 2014 until the trade that ended his Utah Jazz tenure a month ago.
Ingles tore his ACL on Jan. 30, and, when he returned to Vivint Arena on Wednesday, he told reporters that he understands why the Jazz traded him for 23-year-old guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker and 26-year-old forward Juancho Hernangomez, neither of whom is a regular in their rotation.
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He does not, however, have to like it.
"I still think I could have been an asset down there to help the guys," Ingles said, via the Salt Lake Tribune's Eric Walden. "Knowing [coach] Quin [Snyder], knowing the guys, knowing what their goals are, I definitely could have still been important."
Ingles has "very mixed emotions" about the trade," he said. "I still get very mad and frustrated with it. I live like 10 minutes up the road, so it's annoying that I can't go to the [practice] facility and do all that. It is what it is, I understand it. Do I necessarily agree with it? That can be up for debate."
His relationship with his former team is ... complicated. When Ingles rehabilitates his knee and does his physical therapy, he wears his Blazers gear, "to make sure they know I'm not part of the Jazz anymore," he said. He hasn't watched the team play since the trade, and, that night, he had some beers at a friend's place in an effort to decompress. Some days, he said, he's OK with it. But how do you move on from a place you haven't left?
"Everywhere I go, I hear, 'We wish you were here! We love you!' Which is nice to hear, but it's bizarre picking my kids up from school," Ingles said. "It's a very interesting situation to live in the same place you got traded away from."
Ingles said that he knew there was a "good chance" that he'd be traded, but "still didn't believe it would happen." He is still "extremely close" with Synder," he said, and is grateful for the time he spent with the team.
He said he's happy that the Trail Blazers are the team that traded for him. Ingles has had conversations with coach Chauncey Billups and franchise player Damian Lillard, and he's planning to make several trips to Portland, including one toward the end of March. "It's been a very, very good experience so far," he said, adding that "I feel like I've got to give them a chance" in free agency and "my whole rehab this summer's gonna be in Portland."
Ingles will turn 35 years old in October, and he doesn't seem like the most natural fit for a team that has either traded away or shelved virtually all of its veterans. No one knows what the Blazers' roster will look like next season, though, and they've indicated that they plan to retool around Damian Lillard rather than bottoming out and starting over.
No one knows, either, what Ingles will look like next season. His usage and efficiency declined sharply this season, in which he averaged his fewest minutes (24.9) since 2016-17. A couple of years ago, Portland was desperate for someone just like him: A big wing who could create out of the pick-and-roll, space the floor and hold his own defensively. Ingles joked, however, that "coming into free agency with half a knee" will be "interesting."