Swanigan Brings 'Just Good For Us' Energy In His First Start

by Casey Holdahl
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During his brief tenure thus far in Portland, Trail Blazers rookie Caleb Swanigan has shown himself to be somewhat impervious to excitement, at least on the surface. While the 6-9 forward surely has all the emotional ups and downs that come with being a 20 year old in the NBA, you wouldn’t really know it from his calm, almost indifferent demeanor.

But even Swanigan couldn’t help but get a little amped up Monday night, as the former Purdue Boilermaker got the first start of his NBA career at power forward in place of Noah Vonleh during Portland’s 99-82 victory versus the Denver Nuggets at Moda Center.

“I mean yeah, just a little bit too much,” said Swanigan on whether he had a little something extra in the first quarter of his first NBA start. “A lot of rebounds I could have had hit me in the hands. Got so much anticipation in you, you do some things that are uncharacteristic.”

That anticipation resulted in Swanigan picking up two fouls in the first seven minutes of the first quarter and five fouls by the end of the third quarter before fouling out in 20 minutes and 29 seconds.

“That’s just part of learning," said Swanigan. "You play in the game and you learn the game. (Paul) Millsap’s a good player, been in the league for a while so you only get better when you experience it."

And while there's certainly room for improvement, Swanigan more than held his own in Monday night's victory to finish with six points on 2-of-5 shooting from the field and 1-of-2 shooting from three, five rebounds, two blocks and an assist.

"I thought he played well," said CJ McCollum of Swanigan. "We've been trying to tell him in practices that the whistle is not going to be very good to him in games, I think he seen that tonight. But I thought he battled, he rebounded well, he made the right plays, was in the right spot for the most part."

It is yet to be seen Monday night's start will be the first of many this season for Swanigan or simply a one-time decision by a head coach looking for a way to shake things up after losses to the Grizzlies and Nets. But if he does get another start Wednesday night versus the Orlando Magic, he might want to try to hold on to some of that first-game excitement.

"I think he brought some energy to the lineup," said Damian Lillard. "I saw he had a block early and he was real excited. But just his confidence, how much he wants to do the right thing, I think that really helps when you're adding a guy to the starting lineup. The offensive rebounding, the extra opportunities, his presence -- he might go over the back a few times, on offense, he might run through a guy, but he wants to do the right thing. So I think the kind of energy that he brings, it's just good for us."