The Rockets just could not take their eyes off Stromile Swift. His talents fit their needs. His potential excited their imaginations.

So they went after one free agent and Monday, they got him.

After 10 agonizing days in which the Rockets waited for his answer, Swift declared Monday that he wanted to play for the Rockets, Swift's agent Andy Miller said Monday evening.

``He has decided to become a Houston Rocket,'' Miller said. ``He's absolutely excited about playing with Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. The Houston organization has been very consistent and adamant about getting him.''

In Swift, a 25-year-old, 6-foot-9 bundle of athleticism if unrealized potential, the Rockets get the sort of frontcourt explosiveness they wanted to put in between Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.

In five seasons with the Grizzlies, Swift has averaged nine points and five rebounds, never cracking the starting lineup while usually playing behind Pau Gasol. Given his athletic abilities, and that he was the second player chosen in the 2000 Draft out of LSU, he had been called of an underachiever. But the Rockets viewed him as a player that needed the role they could offer.

``That's real, real big for us,'' McGrady, who worked to recruit Swift, said. ``I'm going to do my best to turn him into an All Star player, too. I'm very excited about it. I that he was the guy we were missing. He'll add more depth, more athleticism. It's good to have him part of us. I think he has unbelievable talent. The best is about to come out of him.''

Miller would not discuss the terms of the deal. But unless the Rockets can work out a sign-and-trade deal with the Grizzlies, which is unlikely, the Rockets will not be able to offer more than the mid-level exception, expected to be worth between $28 million and $32 million over five years.

Players cannot sign with teams until July 22 when the new collective bargaining agreement is expected to be completed and the financial formulas that dictate such contracts are expected to become available. Now that Swift has chosen his team, Miller and the Rockets will likely work out the details of the contract this week.
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