Malcolm Gladwell has a piece in the New Yorker about how the full court press and up-tempo help the underdog. Of course, the post is about broader subjects as well as just basketball. But B-ball bloggers and others are scratching their heads.
Chad Orzel, in a post titled “Malcolm Gladwell is no Charles Barkley:”
“[T]he press works, as long as the other team isn’t ready for it. The idea of a full-court press is to force the opponent into a rushed and frenetic game and get them out of their routine. A team that’s ready for it, though, and has skilled and disciplined players, won’t get rattled by the press, and can pick the press apart for lots of easy baskets. You can use the full-court press to rattle a superior team that isn’t expecting it, but if they know it’s coming, there are a lot of ways that pressure defense can fall apart– missed traps in the back court lead to two- or three-on-one breaks, over-aggressive defense leads to fouls, etc.. The teams that have won titles using pressure basketball have also had lots of talent, because you need something to fall back on if the press doesn’t work.”
“Like Chad, it’s stuff like this that makes me wonder about Gladwell. He’s an engaging writer and he picks interesting subjects, but there are really only two alternatives here. Either (a) he wrote this piece without bothering to learn enough about basketball to understand why the press isn’t used much above the kiddie league level or (b) he knew the answer but chose not to share it with his readers because it would wreck his story. Unfortunately, I suspect the answer is (b). He seems like a guy who sometimes decides not to let the facts get in his way once he’s settled on a good narrative.”
Megan McArdle looks at the broader question of unconventional tactics:
“Worse, unconventional tactics can trigger an adverse reaction in opponents. If they have the ability to punish you, you’ll regret it. I suspect that most of Al-Qaeda were surprised and horrified when the US reacted to attacks on US soil differently from attacks on military installations abroad: not with surgical strikes on moderately important targets, but by invading Afghanistan. Similarly, if the players on the basketball court think you’re going too far, as any basketball player can tell you, they have lots of ways to retaliate.”
At NBA Fanhouse, Michael David Smith defends Gladwell:
“The full-court press embodies the values that we should hope a 12-year-old would learn from basketball: Namely, that hard work pays off and that physical fitness is important. If employing the full-court press helps those girls win games, that’s a nice bonus. Gladwell’s story is a fun, interesting look at the kind of coach that any 12-year-old would be lucky to have.”
Okay, but we won’t have the final word until we have Kenny or Charles’s thoughts on the matter. Does anyone have the e-mail for “Inside?”
Apropos of nothing, we post this video from last year’s play-offs. Because it is still hilarious, one year later.
What does Gladwell have to say about that? Kobe is an Outlier, no doubt. The next TNT broadcast is Sunday. Plenty of time to respond!
Nothing from Matt Y. yet. Or John S. When they respond, we will update.
UPDATE: Ezra Klein for the defense. (Of Gladwell, not the full court press.)
UPDATE #2: Steve Sailer
UPDATE #3: Gladwell responds to the critiques on his blog
Alan Jacobs at The American Scene.