Underneath the flop-top red hair and all those tattoos lies a talented basketball player within Robert Swift. This must be true, or why else would the Thunder be clinging to this great unknown? Swift is remarkably agile for someone who stands 7-foot-1 and weighs 270 pounds, which are the primary reasons he occupies an NBA roster. "Mobile guys that size are hard to find,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said of Swift, the No. 12 overall selection in the 2004 draft as a McDonald’s All-American out of Bakersfield (Calif.) High School. "He knows how to play. He has a good feel for the game. He had a real strong showing in high school prior to getting drafted.” Chris "Birdman” Andersen quickly became a fan favorite and the unofficial mascot of the Hornets during his brief stint in Oklahoma City. Swift could serve as the Thunder’s mascot until the team’s front office actually produces one itself. Andersen and Swift are undeniably likeable, which is why you don’t judge a book by its cover. Teammates embrace Swift, and while it’s nice to be nice to the nice, does Swift truly belong in the NBA? Thunder execs believe this to be true, so they re-signed Swift last month rather than lose him to another team. One of Swift’s bigger assets is his basketball IQ. "In a lot of things I do — and I don’t know why, really — one of my abilities is to understand things quickly,” the 22-year-old Swift explained. "Just show me once, and I understand it. Basketball is one of those things.” The left side of Swift’s brain might be in good shape, but the right side of his body is a mess. In four NBA seasons, Swift has appeared in just 71 of a possible 339 games (including playoffs), 24 as a starter. He currently is sidelined with an injured right hand. He missed 70 games last season with tendonitis and a torn meniscus in his right knee. He missed the 2006-07 season with a torn ACL in his right knee. In the two seasons before that, he missed games with right knee patellar tendonitis, a sprained right foot, a sprained right thumb and a broken nose (presumably the right nostril). On paper, it’s easy to question Swift’s credentials. So why aren’t they questioned? "His body hasn’t allowed him to show what he can do,” said forward/center Nick Collison, who arrived with the former SuperSonics franchise one season before Swift. "To be mobile and be big, there’s just so few guys like that. That’s why so many people see promise in a guy like that. A big guy who can play is just so valuable.” Last Thursday night in Phoenix, Swift played for the first time since last March and finished with six rebounds, four points, one assist and one steal in 16½ minutes. "It felt good, but it was exactly what I expected,” Swift said. "My timing was off. My conditioning is getting there, but is not there (yet). The thing that felt good is I knew all the plays, knew all the defenses.” Presti said of Swift: "He absorbs information pretty quickly. For someone who hasn’t played a lot, he’s still able to see things on the floor.” Now all that’s left is to see Swift on the floor himself.