LAS VEGAS — Talking to Trail Blazers rookie forward Caleb Swanigan after Portland’s 72-63 victory versus the Utah Jazz in their first game at the Las Vegas Summer League, one didn’t get the sense the former Boilermaker was particularly enthused with his performance. Despite putting up a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds in 28 minutes, the 6-9 forward out of Purdue seemed to take little positive from his performance other than that it came in a victory.
“It was good. We won,” said Swanigan. “That was all I wanted to come out here and accomplish. So, we did that… You don’t always make every shot, you don’t do everything right, but if you win, that’s all you want at the end of the day.”
If his endless motor didn’t all but ensure he’ll be a fan favorite in Rip City, that mentality refusing to be satisfied, even with a quality performance, is certain to make him one of Portland’s most beloved new players. Between pulling down offensive rebounds for putback points and taking every opportunity to rim run in transition, Swanigan showed himself to be the kind of player who Trail Blazers almost always seem to greatly appreciate.
“I was very impressed with how he is defensively and just his toughness,” said summer league head coach Jim Moran of Swanigan. “He’s one of those guys who’s in the gym all the time, so when you actually get to practice, he’s 110 percent every possession. There’s no half speed for him. From a coaching perspective it’s nice because you don’t have to kind of motivate a guy like that, he’s already trying to get every rebound, trying to get every ball on the floor.”
That full speed ahead approach was a hallmark of his career at Purdue, and has been almost instantly recognized by his new teammates and coaches as one of his most valuable qualities.
“I thought Caleb played pretty well,” said fellow 2017 draftee Zach Collins, who started at center alongside Swanigan. “Big strong dude. He’s a locomotive when it comes to offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding, too. He’s a great guy to have on your team.”
Which, by all accounts, is the same takeaway Trail Blazers fans watching both at home and inside COX Pavilion came away with. Perhaps Swanigan himself was expecting more, but for most everyone else, his debut was more than enough to put him on the fast track to becoming the next fan favorite in Rip City.