- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2006

After his first season as coach of the Washington Wizards, Eddie Jordan saw poor defense as a huge concern, just as he does these days.

Often forgotten, though, is that turnovers — or as Jordan refers to as “not valuing possessions” — easily ranked second on the list of things to improve.

During that 2003-04 season, when the Wizards went 25-57, the team committed a whopping 1,439 turnovers, an average of 17.6 a game.

But this season, valuing possessions is not something Wizards players need pounded into their heads. Through four games, they are clearly more judicious with the ball.

The Wizards average just 12 turnovers a game, while forcing opponents into an average of 20 a game by trapping and switching defensive schemes.

If the Wizards maintain their current pace of 12 turnovers a game they would finish the season with 984 on the season, which would be their lowest total in a full season since the league began recording them back in 1977-78. The Wizards committed 736 turnovers in 1998-99, but that season was cut to 50 games because of the lockout.

The end result is the Wizards (2-2), who play host to Milwaukee tonight at Verizon Center, boast a league-best minus-8.0 turnover differential. Chicago is second at minus-5.25.

“That something that we’ve worked to get down over the years,” Jordan said. “It’s a pretty simple formula: The more turnovers you get the more possessions you get.”

Consider: The Wizards held Indiana to 38.6 percent shooting it their 117-91 victory Wednesday, but the difference was the 25 turnovers — including 13 steals — Washington converted into 35 points. At 10.5 steals a game, the Wizards are third in the league behind Seattle (11.5) and Sacramento (11.0).

Boosting that average are Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. Once again the top-scoring trio in the league at just fewer than 80 points a game, the Big Three also leads all trios in steals — Butler at 3 a game, Arenas at 2.75 and Jamison at 2.

“We did a lot of that with this team when I first got here with Larry [Hughes] and some of those other guys,” Jamison said. “We’re doing it again this year and we’re having a lot of success with it, so that’s good.

“Really, if you look at it, That’s our formula,” Jamison added. “When we are forcing turnovers and getting steals that’s when we win.”

Note — While they are undeniably benefiting from forcing turnovers, the Wizards offense is still the team’s calling card. Arenas scored 44 points in the Wizards’ home opener against the Celtics last week. In the team’s win over Indianapolis, Arenas needed just 32:21 to score 40 points. Arenas is the first player to score 40 points or more in the first two home games of a season since Hall of Fame center Wilt Chamberlain started the 1962-63 season with four straight 40-plus point home games.

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