Interview: Kasım Ersoy, TrendBasket
On Sunday night, the Utah Jazz got away with a 110-109 win on the road against the Sacramento Kings. Prior to the game, the Jazz’s Aussie forward Joe Ingles spoke to TrendBasket on the Jazz, his Maccabi days, Australian Men’s Basketball National Team and Turkey. The edited and condensed transcript of this sincere interview are as follows:
Let’s start with the Jazz. Despite your style of play contrary to the rest of the league, you’ve had a really successful season so far. How do you explain this success you got?
I think we have good guys on the team, good people off the court. Guys that care, guys that want to get better… You can do a lot of things on the court when you got a group that is tied together and connected. This makes everything a lot easier and we got an All-Star, who is the most unselfish guy on the team. When your best player is the most unselfish guy on the team, it has an impact on everyone else. I think it’s a combination of a lot of things but we’ve got a lot of good people in the locker room.
Going back to Maccabi… Although nobody gave Maccabi a chance to win it all in 2014, you beat the biggest favorite in the Final. What can you say about that team’s spirit?
It was similar to here. We had really good guys also on that team. We weren’t the most talented team, didn’t have the most budget but we had guys that wanted to win. We obviously had a good coach. We had a lot of injuries that year, guys that were playing in and out due to injuries. Once we got to the Final Four, we knew that we obviously had a chance to win it all because there was one game each in the semifinal and in the final. We got a little bit lucky in the semifinal against CSKA (Moscow) but once we were in the final, we obviously believed we could win. We’d had two close games against Madrid that year in the regular season. Lucky for us, we got the win.
What are your thoughts about David Blatt, the coach of that Maccabi team?
He was kind of, personally, difficult to play for, not in a bad way. We had a very talented team and always played by rotating. I was playing 30 minutes in one game, five minutes in the other. So, it was difficult but he’s obviously a great coach in offense and defense, in all of those things. We had a really smart team; so, he let us play. He had a system and the guys who were out there had a bit of freedom. I think that’s what I’ve seen him translate over here because in the NBA, there are so many talented players and you need to let them play. It was a really fun year.
You’re still following the EuroLeague? Who are your Final Four and championship favorites?
Yes, a little bit. I’m only following Barcelona and Maccabi, (due to) playing for them before, still having friends in each of those teams. I’m indifferent to other teams. I think CSKA is at the top, aren’t they? They are always favorites. I wish it was Barcelona or Maccabi but I don’t think it will happen this year.
Could you please name five best players you’ve played with or against in the EuroLeague?
Definitely Navarro (Juan Carlos). I probably just put my whole Maccabi team (Laughing). Devin Smith, Terence Morris, Shawn James (before he got injured), Boniface N’Dong… It’s tough (to name names), as I played with so many great players, e.g. Huertas (Marcelinho) from the Lakers or wherever he is now, Jasikevicius when he was in Barcelona… I think most of these guys can play here.
In the last five years, we have seen a lot of Australian players coming into the NBA. This also affects the national team in a positive way. How do you explain the recent success of Australia?
I think it’s about we care about and want to play for Australia. We’re lucky to have guys that put their hand up every year. Playing in the season and continuing to play for Australia is obviously hard for the body. I think guys really care. We enjoy playing, have had some fun times. Most guys like to spend summer with their families. We like our families, too (Laughing) but it’s something we all really like doing. We care about winning and now that we’ve been together for a long time as a core group and added guys like Dante (Exum) and Ben Simmons, we’re only going to get better. I think a lot of this success comes from caring about playing and winning, representing our country in the right way. Rio was our best chance we’ve had in a long time to win a medal and we came up short. Potential is there and the next four years with these new young guys will be very exciting.
Would you consider playing on the other side of the Atlantic again?
I’ve had my time over there. I was living in Barcelona. It was an amazing club to play for and the city is amazing. I love Maccabi. I loved living in Tel Aviv and the club was also amazing there. I think I’m used to play here now. I think the style of play here is better for me. I wouldn’t say no, though, once I’m done over here and a good opportunity comes up. If I play in Europe again, I’ll make sure I’m in a good city, with a good professional team. I wouldn’t say no to Europe but I prefer staying here.
This is my last question. What are your general thoughts about Turkish teams in the EuroLeague?
They are pretty unbelievable. I’ve got some friends playing over there. Fenerbahçe and Anadolu Efes have always been top teams in the EuroLeague. Galatasaray was really strong, when I was playing over there. Turkish League would be right up there among Europe’s toughest leagues, with those teams and David Blatt’s team. How do you say that?
It’s a really tough league. Turkey is somewhere I always wanted to play. We played at the World Championships there in 2010. I really enjoyed the country. So, it was somewhere I would’ve liked to play but I never got the opportunity. The league is financially good for players. Great country.