Turnovers Are Fun And Quite Delicious

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Coaches and players hate turnovers.

No really hate them. They are like Moriarty to Holmes, Kryptonite to Superman, the Toronto Star to the Mayor of Toronto, environmental rules to the nice folks who run the Tar Sands. Turnovers to basketball lovers are like a Greenpeace inflatable that skids into an ice-floe jammed with nice, fat seals.

You want to elicit a hairy eyeball from an NBA coach, float the idea that turnovers are fun to watch.

“I don’t think any coach or fan who enjoys NBA basketball wants to see any turnovers,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said at practice Thursday as his 1-1 team prepared for Friday’s game against the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks in Big D.

Mention turnovers and DeMar DeRozan will flash you the look you gave your mother when she made you eat Brussels sprouts.

“I hate them,” he said. “They kill the flow of the game.”


In Wednesday’s home opener against Indiana the Raptors committed 19 turnovers. The Pacers chipped in with 16 of their own.
People loved it. There were turnovers stuck on turnovers, steals off steals, instantaneous plot twists, all-over-the-floor athleticism.

The Raptors lost by five but I didn’t notice anyone who wanted their money back.

I get that players wants to win. I understand people are playing for their livelihood.

But mistakes are a bi-product of invention. Endeavour, any endeavour, comes with risk. If you’re not making the occasional god-awful mistake, you’re probably not trying hard enough.

Consider this list of 10 players: Russell Westbrook, John Wall, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Deron Williams,  Steve Nash,  Rajon Rondo,  Derrick Rose,  DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans.

Ladies and gentlemen: the top of the NBA heap in turnovers per game last season.  In the post-season,  Howard gave back the ball 5.5 times per game, one turnover per contest more than anyone else. No wonder Orlando is trying so hard to get rid of him.

Coaches hate turnovers because of a potential six-point swing, the three you don’t get and the three your opponent might generate off the mistake.

But the turnover story is rarely one-sided. If there is a gap, it’s usually narrow, even irrelevant.

The Philadelphia 76ers turned the ball over an NBA low 13 times a game last year. With 17 gaffes a game, the Minnesota Timberwolves posted the worst total. The team with the worst ratio had 78 per cent as many turnovers as the team with the best ratio. So how big a deal can it be?

Last year Miami stood 25th in regular season turnovers. The Mavericks were worse. They stood 26th.

Ah you say, but what about the post-season?

Same story. The final four teams, Dallas, Chicago, Miami and OKC finished eighth, 10th, 11th and 15th in turnovers per playoff game among the 16 post-season qualifiers.

Coaches who don’t want turnovers are like baseball managers who want a pitcher to throw a strike,  just not a good one. They are like the coach who loves his puck-rushing defenceman until he gets bitten by a pinch.

Basketball is a game of turnovers. Every missed shot is a turnover. Give me the player unafraid to grab the game by the reins, the adventure capitalist.

Don’t get me wrong,  I am all for cautious surgeons. I think we all agree nuclear scientists should be men and women of measured thought. Athletes operate in the moment.

If turnovers are so catastrophic,  stop making players give the opposition the ball after they score. You don’t get the puck in hockey, the ball in soccer or the baseball just because you did something right.

Leave it to a game created by a Canadian to incorporate socialism into the rules. Honestly.

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