Nets changing approach as turnover issue lingers

The Nets are leading the league in an area they wish they weren’t.

Seven games into the season and Brooklyn is averaging a league-high 19.9 turnovers per game. The Nets also rank 27th in turnover rate with 18 percent of their possession ending up in the hands of their opposition.

It’s made taking care of the ball a focal point this week. The Nets altered their practice to work on the issue before a five-game road trip beginning in Portland on Friday. They worked against more frantic defensive schemes to simulate opponents trying to speed the game up and force careless mistakes.

“We’ve just talked about being more sound with the ball,” Joe Harris said after practice Thursday. “We put ourselves in some different situations here in practice where we did some different drills and live-game situations where teams are going to play overly aggressively defensively. And you’ve just got to be more locked in, more sound with the ball and focus on taking care of it.”

The Nets have allowed each game to be decided in the final minutes, some because of blown leads and others because they allowed their opponent to remain competitive. They’ve yet to record a win or loss by a margin of more than 10 points, with their 10-point victory over the Pelicans on Monday their largest margin of victory this season.

The Nets committed 23 turnovers in that 135-125 win, making what should’ve been a more comfortable win — considering first-overall pick Zion Williamson was out of the lineup — a competitive matchup.

After committing 14 turnovers Saturday, the Nets lost to a Pistons team that didn’t have Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson or Derrick Rose. And the Nets combined for 33 turnovers in their two one-point overtime losses. Their carelessness with the ball is a big reason for their 3-4 start.

It’s a trend the Nets are working to stop as they embark on a tough portion of their opening schedule with stops in Phoenix, Utah, Denver and Chicago after Portland. It’ll be a test for a team still trying to develop chemistry and with a goal of returning to the postseason.

“I think we’re going to have to fight our tails off for a playoff berth,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I really do. I think it’s gonna be a fight. That’s respect for when I look at the teams we have to play. This road trip, there’s nothing given. I think we all understand that.

“This is not gonna be a cakewalk. We’re going to have to really scratch and claw to be in those top eight and we’re looking forward to the challenge. Yes, we can do it. Still, the proof is in the pudding.”

Atkinson believes this is the “perfect moment” for the Nets’ longest trip of the season, saying he’d rather have it now than later. Despite having DeAndre Jordan out with an ankle injury sustained in Monday’s game, Atkinson said he thinks these types of trips can “galvanize a team” and also give extra time for team bonding.

“Just to be together more,” Atkinson said of why this was a good time for the trip. “We’re trying to get on the same page on the court, but I think off the court it will help. … However we come out of it, we’re going to be better for it.”

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