Norman Powell impresses with 28 in LA Clippers debut: 'Think I can fit perfectly in here'

LOS ANGELES -- Norman Powell had just had his new furniture delivered and was still getting settled into his Portland home when he found out he was being traded to the LA Clippers.

In his LA debut on Sunday, Powell showed he could very well be a nice multi-purpose addition to the Clippers' championship design for the future.

Powell scored 28 points and had four assists in his first game with the Clippers during their 137-113 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. While Powell impressed and showed what he can do with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George currently sidelined by injuries, the Clippers are excited about what the small forward gives them next season when they hope to be back at full strength with both of their stars.

"Literally for all my career, I have been in every single role on the team," Powell said after making 9-of-16 shots, including four 3-pointers in 24 minutes off the bench. "The guy fighting and scratching trying to get into the rotation. Being in a rotation, being taken out of a rotation, playing alongside Kyle [Lowry] and DeMar [DeRozan], playing alongside Kyle and Kawhi, playing off of them [in Toronto].

"So I think I can fit perfectly in here, with PG and Kawhi."

The Clippers (27-28) acquired Powell and versatile defensive forward Robert Covington last Friday in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, rookie Keon Johnson and a 2025 second-round pick via the Detroit Pistons. The Blazers were looking to shed salary and add roster flexibility and the Clippers were able to land a player in Powell, who was averaging 18.7 points for the Blazers this season.

Powell, 28, signed a five-year, $90-million deal last August.

"We never thought it was realistic for us to get a player like Norm Powell for a team that won't have salary cap space for a long, long, long time," Lawrence Frank, Clippers president of basketball operations, said. "It's really, really hard to get players like Norm, who are under a long-term deal, who are in their prime."

"Norm's ability as a three-level scorer, the fact that when he's playing off the ball, he's such a prolific catch-and-shoot player," he added. "Really, really, complements Kawhi and PG."

Leonard is currently rehabbing a torn right ACL suffered in Game 4 of the Clippers' second-round series against the Utah Jazz on June 14. His return this season is uncertain. George has been out since Dec. 22 with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right shooting elbow and will undergo an MRI on Feb. 24 to see how his elbow has responded to the time off.

Until their stars are able to return, the Clippers will lean on Powell to help the likes of Marcus Morris Sr. and Reggie Jackson with the scoring load.

"He's a dynamic scorer," said Clippers head coach Ty Lue, who had dinner with Powell. "Mid-range, at the rim, 3-point shot. We can do a lot of things [with Powell]."

Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer echoed what Lue said and thinks the Clippers got better.

"I think it is a good pickup for them," Budenholzer said. "He's a tough cover. To play that way on your first night with the team, that's impressive."

Covington, who had 13 points and hit three 3-pointers in his Clippers debut off the bench, said he was expecting Portland to trade him but thought he would end up in the Eastern Conference. For now, Covington finds himself on a Clippers team that has the potential to play elite defense.

"Beyond excited," Covington said of the trade with Powell to the Clippers. "It's gonna make us dynamic -- more dynamic than what we already are and it's gonna be scary defensively."

For Powell, this is a homecoming. He played at UCLA and is from San Diego, which is two hours south of Los Angeles. And he is reunited with Leonard and Serge Ibaka. Powell hopes they can duplicate the type of success they had in Toronto where they helped the Raptors deliver a championship to Canada during the 2018-19 season.

"I think just the maturity from being able to go through that whole experience, that whole playoff run and winning a championship and just being able to go out there and fight," Powell said of how he has grown since he last played with Leonard. "Like I said, I was in every situation, every position with the Raptors and I've gone through a lot and I think all that has helped me and my game grow."