First came the lanky wizard of the basketball, Jamal Crawford.
Then came the swaggy, sneakily lethal scorer with a chip on his shoulder, Lou Williams.
And came last the not-as-flashy but just as prolific athletic wing, Norman Powell.
‘Stormin Norman’ went straight to work after being dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers from the Portland Trail Blazers: in his first five games — his only five — as a Clipper last season, the wing logged 21.4 points on 51 percent shooting from the field in around 25 minutes of play per game.
Even in just five games, he made quite the impression. Knocking down the three ball at a 54.2 percent clip, finding the bottom of the net in the mid-range, and speeding by defenders and elevating for monster slams — he did it all.
Then and there, he rose up as the likely heir to the legacy of off-the-bench scoring weapons that have been key to the history of the Clippers.
HELLO NASTY— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) January 12, 2023
HOLD THAT POSE, NORM pic.twitter.com/g0fPDlZwU6
But Powell couldn’t quite prove his “worthiness” to start the season.
In his first seven games of the team’s 2022-23 campaign, five of which he started, things turned upside down for the UCLA product. His out-of-this-world three-point shooting turned into a noticeable weakness — he made less than 23 percent of his looks from downtown.
His poor outside shooting led him to forcing up tougher shots inside the arc and, far worse, limited his offensive production greatly. Defenders found it easier to stop a Powell blowby when knowing his three-point shot wasn’t the greatest of threats.
And even when he found a way to beat defenders down the floor, we saw him bricking floaters or his lay-up attempts spinning out of the rim. Add the excitement surrounding the big-named point guard duo of Reggie Jackson and John Wall, it was easy to undermine — and even overlook — Powell and his potential.
But as his streetwear brand name reads, with Powell, you have to “Understand the Grind.” His poor performances didn’t stop him from soon finding his way back into the explosive, sharp-shooting wing he once was. Or even growing into the reincarnation of the sixth-man juggernaut figure that Clippers fans are so used to having.
The San Diego native has found his rhythm and is consistently finding ways to put points on the board. A handful of points, too. In his last six appearances, Powell is averaging 17 points on 45.3 percent shooting from the floor.
And he’s doing so by showcasing all the skills that won him the heart of the Clippers’ front office last season.
Powell is racking up high-percentage shots, vigorously attacking the rim, using screens, and side-stepping into floaters. Inside the paint, he masterfully controls his pace to come to a halt; after a jump stop, he pivots his way around defenders and uses his soft touch to capitalize. In turn, even as an undersized wing, he is making 65 percent of his shots at the rim.
The second-year Clipper may not fit perfectly into the archetype of the Clippers’ past two NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award recipients. He doesn’t wield the ball with the same flare as ‘JCrossover’ did; nor is he as distinct or big of a character as “Sweet Lou’ was.
But we can be sure of one thing: Powell is the rising successor to the prestigious legacy of bucket-getters that elegantly decorated Los Angeles.
And a part of arguably the most star-stacked roster in the history of the 213, he has a chance to do something both Crawford and Williams couldn't. To win something beyond the Sixth Man of the Year award. To gift the Clippers their first championship.