Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thursday's Starting Five

1. Malcolm Gladwell. Despite his credibility with the pointy-headed PhD and tweed jacket set, the best-selling author of The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers frequently weighs in on the sporting life. His latest article in The New Yorker examines the best strategies employed by Davids when squaring off with Goliaths. His answer? The full-court press. Essentially Gladwell posits that superior effort and a willingness to disregard convention/custom offers an underdog it's best chance to beat superior talent. To explore this notion, he sits down with hoops coach Rick Pitino. There's a lot more to it than this but it's a great read. Also worth checking out is Gladwell's conversation with ESPN's Bill Simmons. The pair exchange emails about everything from Inliers, a possible sequel to Outliers, to whether Jason Kidd would be eligible to play for the All-Time White All-Stars in a hypothetical basketball match against the All-Time Black All-Stars. After all, J.J. Barea isn't going to defend Magic Johnson.

2. Sid the Kid. Is he? Or isn't he? He was. But maybe he's not any more. The book on 21-year-old Sidney Crosby was that he didn't have the charisma to be the superstar in the NHL. He wasn't supposed to have the fire, the arrogance or the stage presence to play at his best when everything was on the line. Well, it's time to re-write the book. The Kid netted two goals and added an assists as the Pittsburgh Penguins topped the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. In the first Game 7 of his career, Crosby bested Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin to advance.

3. The Denver Nuggets. The second-best looking team in the 2009 NBA playoffs, has punched their ticket to the Western Conference Finals after brushing aside the Dallas Mavericks, 4-1 in the best-of-seven series. Carmelo Anthony looks like the player that we all thought he could be when he was sharing magazine cover space with Lebron a few years ago. Chauncey Billups looks just as poised as ever did when he helped the Pistons to an upset win over the Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals. Kenyon Martin seems every bit as explosive and douchy as he was in his pre-microfracture prime with the Nets. As of now, my best-case Finals features 'Melo and LBJ battling for seven games.

4. Charles Barkley. This week he's called on Jason Kidd to retire and repeatedly picked the Denver Nuggets to win the NBA championship. Which means, that after all his personal travails, the Chuckster is back and calling them like he sees them as part of TNT's studio crew. He's saying things that sound a little crazy. Until ten minutes later, when you totally agree.

5. The Oranges of Wrath. Displaying talent of a subtler shade than the color of their shirts, the Oranges of Wrath inauspiciously debuted last night in the WORD Bookstore Hoops League. Trailing (approximately) 9-0 after one quarter and losing (definitively) by a more lopsided score, the OW are nonetheless a team to watch. The mix of moxie and misanthropy (and "elbows" according to one unnecessarily surly opponent) displayed shows that they have the potential to really develop into something special as the season matures. Like the Beavers of Beacon Town High School in Teen Wolf, the Oranges of Wrath seem destined to parlay an early-season blowout loss into late-season glory. By way of werewolves. Needless to say, this team's end-of-season party will certainly feature one keg of beer.