In an off-season of change to both the coaching and training staffs, the Lakers have added one more new addition. According to Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, the team has hired the Bulls’ former director of sports performance to work on their own staff:
Lakers have hired Jen Swanson, former Bulls director of sports performance, to fill vacancy left by departing physical therapist Judy Seto.
— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) September 13, 2016
Swanson was relieved of her duties in Chicago this past summer after 3 years on the job. Per the team’s press release at the time of her hiring, Swanson was tasked with “overseeing the athletic training and strength and conditioning departments, as well as massage therapy, chiropractic care, nutritional support, and any related auxiliary services.” And according to a report from when the team dismissed her this summer, she was increasingly focused on the rehabs and general health of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
That same report of her dismissal cites friction between Swanson and former head coach Tom Thibodeau as well as animosity with some of the team’s players resulting from her giving more time and resources to the health and recovery of Rose and Noah over the rest of the team. Add in these hard feelings to the hard times the Bulls have suffered via games missed by injuries (serious and nagging) — even after Thibs left — and one might also question Swanson’s own performance the past 3 years.
Surely the Bulls did by letting her go.
That said, Swanson is not coming to the Lakers to run their training staff. Marco Nuñez is the team’s head trainer. Meanwhile, Tim DiFrancesco is the team’s strength and conditioning coach while also having a great deal of input on the players’ diet and nutrition.
Swanson’s role, then, is a bit unclear. As Ding notes, she is replacing the departing Judy Seto — the team’s head physical therapist. Seto, as many know, was instrumental in helping to get Kobe Bryant ready to play in games and was dubbed the team’s “secret weapon” back in 2012. This past season, Kobe again credited Seto for her work and she was prominently featured in an ESPN story on the all day process of getting Kobe ready to play in his last season.
Will Swanson step into Seto’s shoes? Will she fill a different role? Going back to the release when she was hired by the Bulls, she has a history of working in Physical Therapy specifically:
Swanson comes to the Bulls after five years at Athletes’ Performance in Los Angeles as the Performance Physical Therapy Manager, where she worked with a variety of athletes—including those from the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB…
Whatever the role, it is easy to look at this hire from a couple of different perspectives.
If you’re a glass half-empty type of person, it’s easy to see her dismissal from the Bulls and the circumstances surrounding it — the reported preferential focus on specific players, the clashing with the coaching staff and resulting friction caused between coaches and management — and wonder if this is the right person to bring into the organization.
On the other hand, part of success in this league (or for that matter, in life) is finding the right sized role for your skill-set and then excelling in it. Swanson has experience running an entire team’s training operations, but now will (presumably) asked to do less as simply a part of the larger team. Her experience as lead trainer can inform her reduced role and there is a hope it can benefit her and the Lakers to bring that wider perspective to a more narrow focus. Not to mention she is clearly qualified from a credentials standpoint (read her bio in the Bull’s press release again).
Ultimately, this isn’t a make or break hire, but I am always interested in how the Lakers use their financial resources around the edges to construct their team. As I often say, there is a cap on player spending but not on what you spend on management, coaches, and training staffs. Swanson’s hire falls into the non-player spending pool and, with that, I hope they have invested wisely.