Sonics Q&A: Robert Swift
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Kevin Pelton, SUPERSONICS.COM | March 26, 2007
Seattle SuperSonics center Robert Swift got good news last week when he was cleared to step up his rehabilitation by shooting free throws and doing some ballhandling drills. Swift is working his way back from surgery to repair his right ACL, which was injured late in the preseason after Swift had already secured the starting center spot for the Sonics.

In this Q&A, reprinted from Soniczone magazine, Swift talked about the injury, his rehab, and his goal of coming back better than ever.

"Everything happens for a reason. It gives me a chance to get stronger in the upper body. I take all the opportunities I can now to watch the coaches."
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty
Soniczone: When you first suffered the injury, did you know right away that it was serious?
Swift: No, I didn't know. I felt something happen - it felt like it had just popped out of place and popped back into place, so I was hoping it was nothing. I got back up and tried to walk back into the game, but I had no strength in my leg. I tried to walk it off, but they called me out (of the game).

Having secured a starting spot, what was your reaction to having your season end with one misstep?
At first, a little disappointed and upset, but everything happens for a reason. It gives me a chance to get stronger in the upper body - I lift three to four times a week in the upper body. I take all the opportunities I can now to watch the coaches, watch how they help the team. When you're playing, you're so into the game and what is happening on the court that you don't see what happens off the court. You don't see things from a different perspective. I'm starting to pick up on things and I think it's going to help me next year.

Has there been any fear associated with what is a pretty serious injury?
No. I know that I'm giving it 100% to strengthen it and come back and play at, hopefully, a better level than I did before. I don't know what will happen but right now I'm looking to have a full recovery and come back as if nothing ever happened.

Have you talked to many other players who have torn their ACL or to players who have had to miss an entire season with an injury?
Yeah, I have. Everybody I've talked to hasn't had problems with their ACL again. Some of them say it's stronger than their other leg. The hard part is sitting out a year. When I look back on it, I did this already one year, my rookie year [when Swift played just 16 games and 72 minutes]. Now I get to see all the other things that are happening now that I've got a better understanding of how to play on the court.

What did they say about the importance of rehab?
That was one of the main points I heard from almost everybody. They all say the same thing - how hard you work is how much better and stronger you will be.

After you had the surgery, how long were you unable to walk?
About a week. I was walking a little bit. They told me to go as far as it wasn't painful. I was walking around a little bit. I had a machine to move my leg around and I maxed it out after about a week.

When did you start rehab?
I started right after that. I started strengthening it. Now I'm into rebuilding the muscles around it and a little bit of tougher strengthening exercises. It's coming along.

How much have you seen your knee improve since starting rehab?
It's gotten a lot stronger; I can do some things I couldn't do when I first got out. It's still weak, but not unstable. I don't have that feeling anymore. As far as walking and moving around, it's about 100%. I've got to take it to the next level, start jogging, then jump up there a little bit.

I can do stuff now - move laterally, run, jump, all that. It's just doing it more than a little bit a day puts me at a lot higher risk of something going wrong, stepping wrong, twisting it the wrong way. It's not strong enough or ready to handle that kind of pressure. It's coming along, I've just got a little ways to go.

Could you take us through a typical day of rehab?
I get in and rehab in the morning - get on the bike a little bit, get stretched out, light weights, doing different positions, some resistance in different positions - moving laterally and horizontally, everything. I'm on the treadmill a little bit, walking at a faster pace. I ice it down, get over here (to The Furtado Center) and lift upper body. Ice and then I'm done.

How often does that take place?
I try to lift every day and then rehab is twice a week.

What kind of improvement have you seen in your strength, especially since you first came into the league?
Basically, any way you put it, I couldn't do 185 on that. I probably could barely bench 155-175, max. I did 260 the other day. Everything has gone up 100%. I've doubled, if not tripled, almost all my exercises.

Is there a target date for your return to the court?
It all depends on how I feel. I'm shooting for four months right now, getting on the court running straight up and down. I haven't looked any farther than that.

Have you thought about next season at all?
I've thought about it briefly, but it's still far away. My main thing this year, so I don't get discouraged or frustrated with anything, is just take it day by day. That's what I've been doing. That's helped a lot in keeping me motivated, keeping me focused. It does take away looking a little bit long term, but it's helping me.

Swift with a season-ticket holder at the Sonics Season-Ticket Holder Party.
Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty
When you talk about taking the opportunity to watch your coaches, do you think that's a natural part of the NBA maturation process?
No, I don't think I'd call it natural. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to coach a little a younger team when I was in high school. My high school put on a camp for younger kids, and my coach picked me as one of the coaches for those teams. I know a little bit of coaching and what it's like on a very small level. Being able to watch and pick up on it from some of the best coaches in the world, I feel fortunate to be able to do that.

What have you picked up that you would like to implement in your game when you return?
A lot of things on the court, being young, it always seems like everything is difficult, everything has to be perfect. Watching it, you have to be efficient, but you don't have to be quick, you don't have to be perfect every play as long as you're playing hard and being as close as possible. Things take care of themselves. That's what I've learned. If you're out there playing hard consistently, you can succeed.

Has being out for the season changed your relationship with your teammates?
That's one thing about having great teammates - things haven't changed at all. I walk in the locker room, it's like I've been playing. We talk, they ask how things are going, talk about the game, what's happening.

Are you still as close with fellow center prospect Johan Petro as you were last year?
Yeah. Hopefully when I come back next year, we'll play together. We were both looking forward to playing together this year. Hopefully it will be next year.