On 11 occasions last season, Chris Paul failed to commit a turnover. He was guilty only once in 16 other games as a member of the Phoenix Suns. Careful possessions are symbolic of his 18-year NBA career, and they qualify as point guard gold.
That history is why Warriors coach Steve Kerr isn’t sweating the uncharacteristic number of gifts Paul has handed opponents in his first two preseason games with his new teammates.
Paul played 20 minutes Friday night, committing five turnovers in a 129-125 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at Crypto.com Arena.
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“He's really soaking it all in and we're so lucky to have him, because we need his organizational skills,” Kerr told reporters in Los Angeles. “We've talked a lot about cutting back our turnovers, and he's going to help us dramatically.
“I know he had some [turnovers] tonight, but I’m not worried about that. He's got one of the best career assist-to-turnover ratios of any point guard.”
The best, according to StatMuse. Paul’s 3.98 career assist-to-turnover ratio is No. 1 on the all-time list among point guards with at least 1,000 games, indicating that he’s the most reliable ball-handler to come through the NBA.
Yet the man sometimes referred to as the “Point God” also committed two turnovers in 13 minutes in his Golden State debut on Oct. 7.
Golden State Warriors
Seven turnovers in 33 minutes typically are cause for alarm for a coach. But the circumstances must be considered.
“It feels like he's really trying to sort of fit into everything we do,” Kerr said. “And it's a little different than some of the offenses he has run in the in the past few years. Obviously, we play a little faster, with a little more movement. He's more off the ball at times. He's just getting used to that.
“But he's such a smart player that the fit is pretty easy.”
Here’s a breakdown of Paul’s turnovers:
Turnover No. 1: Offensive foul, 9:00 remaining in the half. Lead official Brian Forte whistled him for being too aggressive trying to keep Lakers guard Austin Reaves from stealing a pass in the halfcourt.
Turnover No. 2: Bad pass, 8:39 left in the half. Trying to connect with Stephen Curry coming off a screen near the half-court circle, Paul misjudged Curry’s momentum and the pass sailed a few inches wide and out of bounds. Paul’s response was the obligatory “my bad” chest tap.
Turnover No. 3: Bad pass, 8:57 left in the third quarter. Seeing Andrew Wiggins almost pinned along the sideline, Paul tried to squeeze a pass by Rui Hachimura. Easy steal for the Lakers forward.
Turnover No. 4: Bad pass, 6:01 left in the third. Seeing Dario Sarić near the sideline – with more space than Wiggins – Paul tried a 15-foot chest pass that Reaves, scrambling to reach Sarić, got a hand on and tipped to himself. Steal.
Turnover No. 5: Bad pass, 5:23 left in the third. Dashing out of the paint after taking a pass from Curry, Paul tried to whip the ball around 6-foot-11 Jaxson Hayes with the hope that Wiggins could snag it as he crossed midcourt. No chance. The pass was wide right and rolled out of bounds at the other end. Paul got too cute.
There have times over the course of Paul’s career that he has gone full weeks without throwing four bad passes. In this instance, two of the four were live-ball turnovers that triggered LA’s transition.
Those are the kind of giveaways Kerr despises – and would generate a more emphatic reaction if this were a regular-season game in January.
These preseason games are serving as Paul’s acclimation period. Get to know the tendencies of his teammates and how best to read the rhythms.
“I think now it's more a matter of him just getting enough reps with our other guys to feel that movement and feel the difference in the patterns that we run,” Kerr said.
“But he's just he's one of the smartest players I've ever been around. And he's so in intent and purposeful with each possession. He knows the game so well. It's really exciting to have him, and I think he'll just get better and better.”
Paul, 38, is slower than he was 10 years ago, or even five years ago. But he’s still a master of real-time analysis. Kerr is trusting the history. So are the Warriors. Seems fair.
The first two preseason games are not representative of who Paul has been, and it’s not reasonable to believe they would be. He has weeks and months to settle in and see if he’s still that dude.