Adam's Weekly Nettles: Turnovers, Callouts, and Dwight Howard

kobe bryant

This week, we're trying a new column proposal from Adam Koscielak, our Poland correspondent. The gist? Adam is an angry contrarian man who hates everything and everyone. Virtually everything in the known universe annoys him. Given this, every week, Adam has dozens and dozens of weekly grievances and complaints. Even about things like the NBA, which he actually enjoys! In this new feature, Adam shares with the world his top three NBA-centric complaints of the past week, as well as a single positive statement in a hopeless effort to retain what little humanity he has left. Enjoy.

Grievance #1 – Fans Ignoring Turnovers (AKA the Bryant conundrum)

I really dislike Kobe Bryant. I don't enjoy watching his game, despite the skill involved. See, even when he passes, I don't really feel any sort of team spirit within him. That team spirit drives my love towards basketball -- why do you think I like Steve Nash so much? And while I'll readily admit that I hate players like Kobe PARTLY because I'm never going to be a player capable of being like Kobe, I'll also note how even in a great game, Kobe Bryant still manages to get away with the deadliest basketball sin of them all: the turnover. Or, in the case of Bryant's Friday game against the Toronto Raptors, a whole nine of them.

As with every game, I ended this one on Twitter, discussing the results. Many swooned over Bryant's incredible 41 point 12 assist performance, but I did not -- I sat back and kept staring at his nine turnovers. Usually, the main reason a critic would harp on Bryant is his tendency to shoot too much and too inefficiently. This time? The turnovers just bugged me. I got into a few heated discussions about this, with others telling me I should just let go and enjoy his wonderful performance. That, though, would mean I  don't want perfection in basketball! And that would mean I'm not myself. So, I decided to look at it from a less Twitter-centric point of view. I decided to look at what exactly a turnover does to the score. And you know what? Not enough people realize this: Basketball is about points. Not about clutch, not about dunks, not about flash -- it's about points. Doesn't matter when you score them so long as you outscore the other team.

The Lakers succeeded in doing this, led by Kobe, in an epic 15 point comeback. But what people don't realize is that if Kobe didn't turn the ball this often, odds are the Lakers wouldn't have needed that comeback to tie the game. Want proof? Let's use some stats. Now look, I'm no statistician, and Aaron will probably kill me for all the simplifications that will come with these calculations (Ed. Note: Aaron is seen looming in the background, casually whistling as he sharpens a blade), but I want to show a basic logic I use in harping on turnovers, rather than the specific math behind it. Even if I wanted to, it'd probably be impossible, seeing as I barely passed math in high school. (Ed. Note: What.) With that said, let's get to it.

First, I will be only counting the 8 turnovers Kobe made in regulation, since the theory here is that had Kobe not turned the ball over this much, the Lakers would've had an easy win. Since I do believe that it's understandable to have 3 turnovers per game when you're handling the ball as much as Kobe, I will count this out only for 5 turnovers. So, I used to see how Kobe and the Lakers faired against the Raptors generally that night. It's a bit of a flawed approach, given how the turnovers themselves affect the stats, but since the game had 88 possessions with Kobe on, I will let it slide. I could always use general Lakers data for this, because of larger sample sizes. But I wanted to see precisely this game.

Basically, the Lakers generated 1.114 points per possession during the game, meaning that the 5 turnovers I'm taking into account lead to the forfeiting of around 6 points based only on that trend (Ed. Note: ....................). This already means that if Kobe doesn't turn the ball over more than 3 times, the Lakers win handily in regulation. Add to that a 28% chance of getting an offensive rebound off the shot, the points may grow as high as 10 (Ed. Note: ............................................). Once again, I don't know enough math to draw it out to make sense, but you get my point. Turnovers are the worst play in basketball. If not for the turnovers, Kobe Bryant wouldn't have to make a giant comeback, or hit a clutch three. He'd handily win against the Raptors, who actually helped him by killing themselves with an overuse of Rudy Gay. (Ed. Note: Hey, don't criticize. You're about to be killed by an overuse of "stats.")

Now, I'd just like to ask fans and media alike to remember that NBA basketball is played for 48 minutes, not just for the last five. This is why the refs did not screw you by taking away two points in the last minute of that game a few weeks ago, and this is why a magical half-court shot isn't what won the game. The team won the game, by scoring more points.

Basketball is about points. Really. You can look it up. Continue reading