When Norman Powell became a Los Angeles Clippers player on Feb. 4, I’ve got to say my feelings were mixed. It wasn’t actually anything to do with the then-Raptors guard, in fact I’d barely thought about how much he and Robert Covington would bring to the team.
My initial reaction was purely emotional with no logic and completely centred around the connection I felt towards Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow and even Keon Johnson who were all sent to Portland as part of the trade. Looking back, it’s hard to believe I couldn’t immediately see how much of a win this was for the organization.
While Bledsoe, Winslow and Johnson all had their moments while on the roster, the two guys coming in were game changers. Powell especially; turns out he’s a walking bucket.
That was immediately clear the moment he pulled on a Clippers jersey. He dropped 28 against Milwaukee off the bench on 56/50/86 shooting splits and us fans knew we were onto a winner. He followed that up with 16 and 19 in the absence of the team’s biggest stars but then the unthinkable happened.
Well, it would be unthinkable if you weren’t a part of Clipper Nation for the past 12 months (though to be honest, you could quite easily argue that the curse goes even further back than that). Yep, Powell went down with an injury, joining Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in one of the most star-studded street clothes lineups the league has seen. The news surrounding the San Diego native’s injury only got worse when it was revealed he would be out indefinitely with a fractured bone in his left foot.
Powell would make it back before the season was over and did a solid job of picking back up where he left off, alongside the recently-returned George who was setting about doing the exact same. It felt as though both had made their comebacks at the perfect time, and that it would only be a matter of time before they were joined by Leonard — assuming progress in the postseason. Then the postseason happened.
Despite pouring in 16 and 17 points respectively against Minnesota and New Orleans, the 28-year-old couldn’t stop his team from falling to consecutive losses and subsequently falling out of the playoff picture. A disappointing end to a season that showed so much promise in flashes for the UCLA alum, but still positive signs of what’s to come next.
It’s clear that Powell is set to be a big part of the Clippers’ future, with his reasonable salary guaranteed for a further four seasons — similar to that of Leonard and George, assuming that both take up the player options in the final years of their deals. It’s a core that will reinforce the franchise’s ability to push for a championship, and Norm has shown enough to suggest he can play a big part in that on both ends of the court. He seems to not only fit the way Ty Lue wants his guys to play, but also slots seamlessly into the culture that has been cultivated in the locker room.
With those ingredients, the front office can be sure they’ve secured another big piece of an exciting future.