Thursday, December 7

Norman Powell’s return has Clippers feeling deep, dangerous

LOS ANGELES – As for early impressions, Norman Powell – a Clipper for two months and four games – has these takeaways:

“One thing that they always told me was to take my time,” Powell said.

“It kind of reminds me of the Raptors team in 2019, with how deep our team is and the different positions that we have of guys being able to do multiple things on the floor.”

That’s the Clippers, who’ve patiently, productively stayed afloat without their top-tier stars for most of the season. An apt assessment of the team that’s been able to do that because of the versatile nature of a roster composed of players who believe they can win – not unlike, from Powell’s perspective, those NBA champion Toronto Raptors.

Just days after arriving with Robert Covington from Portland in a trade deadline deal, the former UCLA star and native San Diegan suffered a fractured medial sesamoid bone in his left foot that kept him out for almost two months.

Even without Powell – and All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and, until last week, Paul George – the Clippers stayed in play-in position.

Now, with two regular-season games left, Tuesday’s play-in game bearing down and George and Powell are back, the Clippers (40-40) like what they see when they look in the mirror.

For Tyronn Lue’s team, the play-in will be the third game in four nights as the eighth-place Clippers will travel either to Minnesota or Denver – whichever finishes seventh in the Western Conference – for a game that will be broadcast by TNT, the NBA said Thursday.

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“If he can be better than this, we can be dangerous,” Lue said of Powell, who played for the first time since Feb. 10 and made his first six shots and nine of 10 free throws en route to 24 points in Wednesday’s hold-onto-your-hats 113-109 squeaker against the short-handed Suns.

“I tell you, we’re gonna be dangerous come play-in and playoffs. Something to really build off of and very encouraging seeing how we play. I know they didn’t have their guys tonight, but just to see for us to come out and build a 39-point lead against a good team and well-coached team, that was huge.”

Powell concurred.

“We have a pretty veteran team and we know how to play,” the 28-year-old guard said. “And these guys have done a great job, being able to go with the flow, whatever the season has brought them, injuries, whatever it is, guys have been in and out of lineups, everybody has been able to hold the rope.

“To plug in me and PG and get us back to speed and healthy, it’s going to be really easy (to get ready for the play-in). We got a lot of firepower. It kind of reminds me of the Raptors team in 2019 … so I’m excited.”

Powell and George’s first game together – in the eight minutes they shared the court Wednesday, the Clippers outscored the Suns by 21 points – only bolsters the Clippers’ belief that they’ll be play-in/playoff ready even without a substantial runway to pick up to speed.

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It helps, Powell and Lue agreed, that Portland utilized many of the same plays and schemes under former Clipper assistant Chauncey Billups.

Still, as patient as the Clippers might be, Powell was not: “I hate missing games,” he said.

That he’d suffered a lower-body injury made staying in game shape tough, too, he said, though he gave the Clippers’ medical staff kudos for the ways they tried to replicate his in-game conditioning. He said they measured his heart rate while he was on the bike of the VersaClimber in an effort to “mimic my game play.”

And even one-footed, Powell kept shooting – perhaps fashioning himself as even more dangerous a basketball weapon?

“When I had the boot on, everything was really stationary. I couldn’t jump, or anything like that,” Powell said. “But we’re just trying to find different ways to improve the one-foot shots.

“I have a lot of fun now. It’s kind of like in my routine. After I’m done working out, always make two one-legged shots that have to be swishes. Put it in my routine now, so maybe I might have to pull it out in a game.”

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