Not so Swift
The Stro Show taking long time to return after ankle injury
By Ronald Tillery, Memphis, commercialappeal.com
March 22, 2005
Here's hoping Stromile Swift never left his bed Monday.
Rest, Stro, rest.
By Thursday it should be time for Stro to run.
Run, Stro, run.
In trying to figure out which was more embarrassing -- Swift missing his 13th game last Sunday because of a moderately sprained left ankle or sitting in a uniform not prepared to play -- one had to wonder what really is on the fifth-year forward's mind.
Pau Gasol rushed back from a stress reaction in his left foot.
Shane Battier played two games with a 101-degree temperature that should have rendered him bedridden.
Jason Williams rolled his ankle and performed after two games.
Earl Watson has a busted left hand, a tender shoulder and would have missing teeth if not for cosmetic surgery. Yet the 6-1 reserve guard is, yep, playing.
So where is Stromile Swift?
He's back, all right.
He's back to being the butt of a joke heard during the Grizzlies' inaugural season in Memphis.
Whenever the team bus hit a bump in the road and players were slightly discharged from their seats, a teammate would sarcastically check on Swift.
The remarks would go something like this: Somebody check on Stro. He may have separated his shoulder.
Right now it appears Swift's view on his future is separated from reality.
Sure, he played well when Gasol first went down because of an injury. Sure, Swift can jump to Pluto if he wants, and he operates as the team's only legitimate shot-blocker.
But those credits he earned with fine performances before the Feb. 16 ankle injury at Boston have been spent on unexcused time off.
Swift has been cleared by doctors to play for more than two weeks.
He can play.
He should play.
He needs to play.
This is a guy fighting for a contract beyond this season, and he has shown no recuperative powers and little professional pride. For a team battling for a playoff berth, the Grizzlies are right to plan on excelling without Swift.
"I have never questioned a player in 14 years," Griz coach Mike Fratello said. "There's got to be a trust in all of us. If they say they can't go, then they can't go."
Something funny happened during Lorenzen Wright's exit from practice last week.
Wright, a sturdy veteran, repeatedly asked Swift if he would play the next night against New Orleans.
Swift ignored the ribbing.
When asked about needing to prove that he can play through pain, Swift downplayed the situation.
"I don't think it's a factor because the whole year I've played through injury and didn't talk about it. Everybody plays through injuries," Swift said, responding to a notion that he needs to dispel a career-long notion that he's fragile.
Swift has also talked about not getting enough "lift" to deliver the aerial assault he's accustomed to.
Still, one has to wonder if Swift's ankle is all that's weak.
Could he be receiving bad advice from representatives?
Swift never budged from a six-year, $60 million proposal to the Griz last summer. The Grizzlies' counter was to pay him an average of $8 million per season if he met incentives.
The two parties could have met at a reasonable six-year deal worth $42 million to $45 million.
Now Swift is making the Grizzlies' sticking point seem like Krazy Glue.
How can you invest so much guaranteed money in a guy who has played in no more than 67 games during three of four seasons in Memphis?
What is Swift made of?
But who knows beyond that?