Forward Swift hopes to shed label of underachiever
Stromile Swift doesn't back down from the belief of many that he has underachieved in his first five seasons in the NBA.
But the former first-round pick of the Grizzlies views his new opportunity with the Rockets as a chance to right those disappointments. Swift, a 6-9, 230-pound power forward, signed with the Rockets on Tuesday, the first day NBA teams were allowed to sign free agents and announce trades under the new collective bargaining agreement.
The deal, which a source says is a four-year contract, had been on the table but did not become official until Tuesday.
"I don't think (my career) has gone as well as I planned or wanted it to go, but I've kind of improved every year," said Stromile, 25, who has averaged nine points, five rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots in 352 games with the Grizzlies after the team — then in Vancouver — made him the second overall pick of the 2000 NBA draft. "That's all I can ask of myself is to get better every year. The process has been slow, but hopefully now it will take off."
The major part of the obstacle with the Grizzlies was never being able to crack the starting lineup over Pau Gasol. And Swift also was out of position as a 6-9 post player.
But he comes to the Rockets with a chance to start and be a third of one of the most exciting young frontcourts in the NBA alongside forward Tracy McGrady and center Yao Ming.
For the most part it's a best-case scenario for the high-flying athleticism Swift brings. Unlike his situation with the Grizzlies, Swift will be teamed in the frontcourt with two All-Stars who regularly draw double teams. That should open up his game around the basket where he can rebound and score on lob passes and putbacks.
"I think it's going to make the game a lot easier for me," Swift said. "I know guys are going to have to double-team Tracy and Yao so that leaves me there to get offensive rebounds and putbacks and things like that. And when guys start to play off of me in the half court, I can step back and hit that 15-foot jump shot. If I can continue to do that, then I will be pretty good."
In addition to his low-post presence, Swift brings a lot of the athleticism the Rockets need and were missing at power forward during their opening-round playoff loss to Dallas.
"Stromile adds a lot to the way the league is going," said Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson. "This guy runs the floor tremendously well. The over-the-top scoring is exciting as a player and a fan as you watch the dunks he's had in his past career."
Swift likely will compete with veteran Juwan Howard for the starting spot should Howard return to form after a knee injury and subsequent heart problem that derailed him the final two months of last season. Vin Baker and Clarence Weatherspoon are also under contract.