Norman Powell suited up for the Trail Blazers for the first time on March 26 vs. the Orlando Magic. It was just one day after Portland acquired Powell at the NBA’s trade deadline in exchange for guard Gary Trent Jr. and veteran Rodney Hood who were shipped back to Toronto.
Now, 23 games later, he finally got a taste of what it’s like to play in front of the fans in Rip City, and he’s soaking it all in.
“I’m excited, I really enjoyed it. Not just for me, but for everybody, being able to have fans just back in the arena,” Powell said after Saturday’s win over the San Antonio Spurs. “I know the energy that has always been brought playing on the other side of it, the opposing side and how crazy they get. I’m watching in the playoffs all the big shots that Dame and CJ have hit throughout the years and seeing that energy.
Coach Terry Stotts experimented with the Blazers lineup following the addition of his new guard, and so far, the three-guard look of McCollum, Lillard and Powell has been very productive. On Saturday vs. San Antonio, the trio combined for 75 points following a combined 78-point outing the night before vs. Los Angeles.
Powell is averaging 17.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 33.9 minutes since his acquisition. It’s safe to say the Blazers sparkplug is fitting right in.
The sixth-year guard acknowledges he is getting more comfortable displaying leadership too.
“More and more I’ve gotten comfortable in talking to the guys on what I see defensively throughout the game. Telling the guys to pull over or be in the gaps, and different ways we can help with rotations and things like that,” Powell said. “I think guys have an open ear...
Despite a rough stretch in the month of April where Portland was handed five-straight losses, the Blazers are now peaking at the right time. The Trail Blazers are coming off another blowout win following a back-to-back and are now winners of 7 of the last 8 games.
As Jason Quick of The Athletic pointed out, the Blazers are now 16th in defense, second in offense and fifth in net rating since adding Powell and Jusuf Nurkic to the starting lineup.
“We went through a little stretch losing four or five games in a row, but every team has to go through that at some point in the season to really find yourself,” Powell said. “I think after that, we’ve been able to put together multiple games of high-level basketball, top to bottom offensively, defensively, playing together, communicating, helping one another and staying with it through he ebbs and flows of the game, going through tough stretches.”
After witnessing his team’s ability to overcome adversity, Powell likes where the Blazers’ mindset is heading into the playoffs.
Powell has seen a lot in his six years in the league. He’s gone from a rotational player in the Toronto Raptors lineup to a sixth Man of the Year Candidate to now one of the NBA’s best shooters. He was also a crucial part of the Raptors playoff run to the NBA Finals where Toronto defeated Golden State in six games to win the franchise’s first championship.
He believes Damian Lillard has that championship DNA too.
“I really want to help make a deep playoff run and get to the finals and get to the championship,” Powell said. “I talked to Dame a couple of times about how badly he wants to win a ring, so hopefully this year I can help in different ways when we get into the playoffs. Kind of give them the little stories and things that I went through that playoff run to help probably motivate us to keep our foot on the gas and compete.”