Norman Powell wanted to stay in Toronto after spending the first six seasons of his career with the Raptors organization. The NBA is a business, however – an often cruel one at that – as Powell was dealt to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood on Thursday ahead of the trade deadline.
Powell offered up a bittersweet goodbye to media members Friday - Raptors beat writers are intimately familiar with the 27-year-old, while Trail Blazers reporters received a warm introduction to a player that quickly became a fan favourite in Toronto. It was a quick turnaround for Powell, who started for Portland against the Orlando Magic on Friday.
"The thing I'm gonna miss most is the city. Toronto was the start of everything. All the memories, all the connections and relationships I created... I'm definitely going to miss the city and the fans and the organization. Just the whole vibe in Toronto was amazing," Powell said via TSN's Josh Lewenberg.
Powell added that he did a good job "keeping it together" following news of the trade until he ran into Jama Mahlalela, who was the first coach he worked with when he joined the Raptors. "That's when emotions came out."
Powell was widely rumoured to be traded ahead of the deadline and had often been the subject of potential trade discussion in years past, in large part due to his digestible $11 million salary. He'll almost certainly command a significant pay raise this summer, either from Portland or another suitor.
Joining the Raptors as a second-round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Powell's responsibilities gradually escalated during his first four seasons with the team, culminating in the 2019 championship. Powell's bench scoring was imperative in a Game 3 double overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, which changed the trajectory of the series, facing a 2-0 deficit. In part due to Powell's contributions, the Raptors won four consecutive games, before downing the Golden State Warriors in six during the 2019 NBA Finals.
After Kawhi Leonard left in free agency, Powell's role as a scorer expanded significantly, averaging 16 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in 28.4 minutes during the 2019-20 campaign. Powell was playing some of the best basketball of his career before the trade, averaging 19.1 points per game this year, and was one of the few bright spots of a dismal 2021 season for the Raptors.
Farewell, Norm. Here's to hoping that Trail Blazers fans will understand the grind and everything he brings to the table. For Raptors fans, he'll always be a champion first and foremost.
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