This story is over 5 years old.


Reel Talk: The Seventh And Most Haunted Corbin Smith Review Of Online Basketball Highlights

Alexey Shved continues to destroy basketball in a very particular way in Russia, Stan Van Gundy gets wheezy, and the ghost of Andrea Bargnani haunts you forever.
Photo by Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

It had become a simple fact of human existence that the Golden State Warriors were undefeated. You turn on the Warriors game, they whoop happily and mercilessly on some poor sadass team that is not remotely at their level, you eat a bowl of ice cream, you go to bed. Routine. Fixed. Truth.

In the wake of Golden State's extremely schedule-driven loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, which followed a double-OT near-loss to the Boston Celtics, nothing is settled anymore. The Warriors were once a solid clay foundation on which one could build a house of common knowledge. Now all is madness and upheaval; the sun is upside down. The San Antonio Spurs overtook the Warriors in point differential. Harrison Barnes is injured and Klay Thompson appears physically strained. The clay begins to feel like sand to the touch. The house, it shifts.


Read More: Corbin Smith's Review Of Basketball Highlights, Special Boban Marjanovic Edition

Consider all this a reminder that the world we live in is inherently temporary. Everything, from the largest star to the smallest molecule, is dominated by chaos and entropy; everything will, sooner or later, die. There are no givens in this universe. The only reality is that YOU exist. And even then, how do you know? You might be a fake intelligence, your feelings a mere projection that has no genuine bearing on the world at large. So let's talk about some highlights!


The last time we saw Alexey Shved here in the United States, he was doing heavy duty work for the New York Knicks as their only feasibly playable guard. Watching Shved on an NBA court was a majestic thing: he never seemed totally comfortable, his face seemed constantly on the edge of tears, his dribble was a little too high. He lacked, in every aspect, the straight, formalist forward charge that marks the polish of a professional athlete. Robert Silverman identified Shved's "haunted, existentially doomed quality" in this space last year, in a piece written while Shved was playing the best basketball of his NBA career.

Shvedmania, such as it was, amounted to a short lived, avant-garde basketball happening, and ended when he opted out of the NBA and returned to his native Russia to play for BC Khimki of the VTB United League. I checked in on a highlight mix of his 32-point, 12-assist performance against Lokomotiv, a Train-Themed Russian Basketball squad. In this small, isolated sample …


… Shved looks awesome and completely in control in control. Pull-ups, perfectly placed pocket passes, powerful pumping dunks thrown down in transition, (p)layups off well-timed cuts. The only ways Alexy does NOT score are: 1. Posting up and 2. Rocking down the lane like Santa's Rocket Sled, rising up ten feet from the hoop and slamming it down right in a big man's face, with his testicles resting comfortably on his prey's collarbone. But who needs that when you can do this?

You can even taste hints of the old Feral Dog right here; look at that stance right before he pulls up. Pure, unbridled animal energy.

It is as if Shved spent three years flailing in the NBA's high gravity chamber, headed back to Europe just to get away from that pressure, and now cannot control his otherworldly strength. Every time he picks up chopstick, they snap in his spectacularly muscular fingers; every time he takes a 35-foot fadeway, it's nothing but wet.

It is a message to all of us: if you're feeling frustrated, stalled-out, hopeless, you might just be out of your depth. Perhaps a change of scenery could be very good for you.


Last Saturday, Kristaps Porzingis, the world's preferred basketball player, finally came face-to-face with his spiritual forefather: the mighty Dirk Nowitzki, lion in winter, the European jump-shooting big man whose mighty tales of victory are etched in the stars. Kristaps is the Child of Destiny; the spiritual blood of The Warrior courses through his veins. But he is still feeling his way into the sunlight of his power. Their first confrontation, in which The Great Man passed his wisdom to The Student of the Highest Power, was moving and powerful. Even Rick Carlisle felt large emotions.

Not three days earlier, in Brooklyn, New York, another Child of Dirk, once thought to be the Child of Destiny, wandered lost and broken, nearly forgotten. He had finally found himself in a Nets uniform, as was perhaps always his fate. He scored 23 points—The Number of Jordan, which represents, to all, the Past. Draped on Andrea Bargnani, playing for a minimum contract on one of the league's dreariest teams, it is a reminder that what once was is no more. The spaces of our lives are disappearing behind us, torn forever from our hands. We will not be etched in the stars like Dirk, or, Spirit of the Ball willing, Kristaps. We will just go on, more or less like this.


Watch, if you dare face the void:

Clad in white, plying his trade in an arena so dark it could feasibly be regarded as a haunted house, the viewer sees Andrea as what he is: a disaffected ghost. A man whose public life has always carried with it the stale smell of intense nothingness. A basketball academy youth, then the top pick in Toronto, where he disappointed on offense and horrified on defense. In and out of injuries, the avatar of an entire franchise's failure, traded to the Knicks where he represented a completely different type of institutional failure. Now, playing in the NBA's designated retirement home, Bargnani is where he belongs: haunting a group of hapless and hopeless teens (the Philadelphia 76ers) with a barrage of long-two pointers before disappearing into the ether again.

Imagine, if you will, waking up one morning, and seeing Andrea Bargnani at the end of your bed, sitting on a wicker chair, staring at you:

At first you are startled. But he just keeps sitting there. Staring. You call 911, but right as the operator picks up and asks you what your emergency is, you see deep into his eyes. He is harmless, and no threat to you—just a lost soul, wandering the earth, trying to find what The Human Spirit is. "I'm sorry," you tell the operator. "I think I dialed this number … with my butt."

Bargs begins to follow you everywhere, observing with that sort of faintly sulky stare of his. At first, people in your life—co-workers, family, lovers, fellow mass-transit passengers—are weirded out. Why is this seven-foot-tall man your new shadow? You explain, "This is Andrea Bargnani. He was a first pick in the NBA Draft a while back, but it didn't really work out. Now, in retirement, he is following me around. I'm not 100 percent sure why, but I think he wants to understand the secrets of being alive." They soon accept Andrea into their lives as well.


Bargs haunts you for the next 35 years. Your life happens with him in the frame. Failures, success, the conception and birth of your children, the death of your parents. He is there for it all. He never speaks, doesn't seem to eat. He just hovers, observing, trying to deduce what makes you human, and looking for that spark in himself.

Then, one day, he disappears. You call 911 again, but before you speak, you think: maybe he found what he was looking for; I needn't disturb him. "I … I'm sorry. I dialed this number with my butt again."

You live the rest of your life without incident. Your children grow up, you grow old. Your partner passes, peacefully, in the night. You mourn for the rest of your days. A piece of you has been removed. You try to feel where it was, but there's nothing there.

Sooner or later, you end up near the end. Then, as if from nowhere, he appears again. Andrea Bargnani, gone from your life for multiple decades, standing at the edge of the edge of your bed. Staring:

You begin to cry. Your entire life unspools in front of you. A single tear emerges from the eye of the retired NBA Big man, clad as ever in a beat-up Raptors tracksuit. You wonder if he is feeling the same things you are. For the first time in a week, you rise onto your atrophied legs and walk to the edge of the bed and embrace Andrea in a hug. He is a human being, after all, with skin and bones and warm blood. The tears begin to explode from his face. "It's okay, buddy," you tell him. "I'm here, too. I'm here. I'm still here." He returns your hug.


You begin to feel it slip, you and Andrea at the same time—this is it, this is the end, the last. The tears continue as both of your hearts slow, slow, to a stop.

The Ghost finally knows the touch of humanity, both yours and his own.


Here is Kevin Martin scoring 37 points. Please, do not watch it:

Here is a version of James Harden that contains none of the fun things about James Harden. Kevin Martin's jump shot—from here on out referred to as "The Frankenstein" because his arms are all stickin' out like a damn Frankenstein's—was designed, by him and whatever amoral social engineering high-school coach he had, to draw fouls across the arm. When the "Rip Through" rule was modified in 2011, mostly as a Kevin Durant deterrent, it took away Martin's most notable ability. Now he is just an okay shooting guard preaching the obscenity of The Frankenstein to children.

At least James Harden teaches the kids that you need to TAKE A WACK AT THE DAMN RIM, EARN YOUR POINT WITH FLESH. It might be cynical and anti-basketball—Naismith, for one, would hate it, as he loathed in-contest roughhousing—but at least it kind of promotes the broader virtue of sacrifice. Martin is just out here telling the youth to engineer their innocent jump shots around keeping the defender away from you.

I went to the gym and tried out his stupid jumper. It felt like Satan was in my arms:


Ugh. I would rather people watch a video of me fucking, honestly.


no stan you can't make me — James Herbert (@outsidethenba)December 15, 2015

I would like to spend a moment complimenting Stan Van Gundy's voice. It is gruff and authoritative, coach-ly in the extreme. But when stretched to its limits, as it is here, it begins to whine and crack a little. This is immensely humanizing, to hear the hard-ass' vulnerability escape his face as a whinge. This is the thing that makes him a special presence in the league and in our lives.

I am thankful for Stan Van Gundy.

THANKS FOR READING! If you have a suggestion for a highlight mix, please contact me by releasing a pigeon: they will sense my energy and power, which is highly attractive to birds, and I will extract the information from the bird verbally. Until next time: KEEP HIGHLIGHTING!