Swift back with more bulk, and tattoos
Given all that Robert Swift has been through — the torn right knee ligament that caused him to miss the 2006-07 season, the broken...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Given all that Robert Swift has been through — the torn right knee ligament that caused him to miss the 2006-07 season, the broken nose in '05-06 and the sprained thumb as a rookie — it's understandable why the Sonics are taking a wait-and-see approach before committing any more millions into someone once tabbed as the center of the future.
According to an NBA source, Swift's agent, Arn Tellem, had preliminary talks with the team about a long-term contract extension, but was essentially told the Sonics want to see him play this season before brokering a deal.
"I'm not thinking about that right now," said Swift, who will earn $2.6 million in the fourth year of his rookie contract. "If I worry about that, then I'll have something else on my mind when I'm playing. I'm going to go out in the preseason just trying to get ready for the season.
"The business side of things will take care of itself if I go out and do what I'm supposed to do."
It can be argued that even if much-hyped rookies Kevin Durant and Jeff Green fulfill their promise, and if new coach P.J. Carlesimo discovers a dependable point guard and power forward, Seattle won't return to prominence until it solves its decades-old mystery at center.
Taken 12th overall in the 2004 draft out of Bakersfield High School, Swift was supposed to develop into the next Jack Sikma under the guidance of Sikma.
As an 18-year-old rookie, Swift was woefully underdeveloped and played in just 16 games.
He made significant strides in his second year, averaging 6.4 points and 5.6 rebounds, and was slated to start last season before tearing his right ACL in the final exhibition game.
Swift underwent surgery Nov. 22.
"Robert is like Kevin, Jeff and perhaps like the team in that the expectations [are] there, but the timetable is not there," Carlesimo said. "I expect Robert to be good, but I don't know whether that's going to be in November or January or next year.
"... He may not play like somebody who has been out of basketball for a year and hit the floor running, or he may very well do what usually happens with young players when they don't play for a year and they're coming back from major injury. You may have to go very slowly at the beginning. [If] he's ready to play, he's going to get big minutes right from the beginning. If he's not, then other guys are going to get a chance and later on Robert will catch up."
Carlesimo has plenty of options at center — including 7-footers Johan Petro and Mouhamed Sene and two undersized options in last year's starter Nick Collison, and newcomer Kurt Thomas, who are 6-10 and 6-9, respectively.
It seems Swift will begin training camp today with the starters, which is exactly where he was a year ago. But to see him now, he looks nothing like he did last season.
A series of intertwining black tattoos cover large swaths of his body. He's forgotten how many tattoos he has, but knows he's spent 108 hours under the needle. Swift is wearing his shoulder-length red hair in a ponytail and has significantly bulked up in his upper body, adding about 40 pounds to his 7-1 frame during a nine-month rehabilitation, bringing him up to 280 pounds.
"I'm certainly more comfortable with my body now than I ever was before," he said. "It's an adjustment for me and for everybody else. I get a lot stares and comments, but I like it."
Should Swift improve upon his '05-06 statistics, then he could be in line for a multiyear deal with a starting salary between $6 million and $8 million.
"We're certainly aware of the ability to do something contractually with both he and Delonte [West] by Oct. 31, and we'll explore those options if we feel like it's in the best interest of the player and the team," general manager Sam Presti said.
West, who was acquired from Boston in the Ray Allen trade, makes $1.9 million this season and is eligible for a $2.7 million qualifying offer.
• Several supporters of Save Our Sonics, the fan group attempting to prevent the team from leaving Seattle, gathered outside the team's practice facility to promote the lawsuit from two Sonics and Storm season-ticket holders against the teams for fraud.
• F Damien Wilkins switched jersey numbers from 12 to 21 in honor of his uncle Dominique Wilkins, the NBA legend. "I tried to get it last year from Danny [Fortson] and I told him he should give it to me because he wasn't using it," Wilkins said.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com
Information in this article, originally published Oct. 2, was corrected Oct. 5. A previous version of this story contained an error. The Sonics can offer center Robert Swift and guard Delonte West contract extensions before Oct. 31 but not qualifying offers, as was reported in the original version of this article. Qualifying offers only can be given after the NBA season and until June 30, 2008.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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