PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The NBA is a business.
Norman Powell experienced that first-hand for the first time Thursday when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the Raptors shooting guard was being traded to Portland for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood.
“It was more of a shock, because I was on the phone with my agent and he was telling me that nothing was going on,” Powell told reporters just over 24 hours after the trade was confirmed. “Then he received a call from [Raptors General Manager Bobby Webster] and like 30 seconds later, found out that I was being traded.”
Powell had no desire to leave the Raptors organization, having spent his entire NBA career with Toronto. In fact, he explicitly said he didn’t less than 24 hours before he was traded to Portland.
But the Raptors front office, having lost or traded much of their 2019 championship roster, wanted to make a move to continue the rebuild and the emerging young star in Trent Jr. is as good a piece to build around, if they can keep him.
So when Blazers general manager Neil Olshey came calling for Powell, an upgrade from Trent Jr. in almost every statistical offensive category, plus the potential to bring more on the defensive end, the Raptors sent the San Diego native and UCLA grad back to the West Coast.
The next 24 hours may have gone by even quicker than the 30 seconds between phone calls.
Powell says he went to the facility to get tested a little late to avoid seeing now former teammates.
“I didn’t want to run into too many people, I knew it was going to be an emotional day.”
His avoidance tactics were to no avail because the first two players he ran into were Terence Davis, who had just been traded to the Sacramento Kings, and Matt Davis who is now a member of the Utah Jazz. After that it was a parade of former teammates and coaches, including Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry and assistant coach Jama Mahlalela.
“That’s I think, when the emotions came out about what actually happened. After that I was very emotional seeing everybody.”
A lot of those he didn’t see in person, he heard from.
“My phone blew up.”
Powell hardly had time to emotionally process leaving the team he started his career with, won a title with and was having a record year for. Just a few hours after the trade he was on the move, heading to meet his new team and understand what it meant for him to be a Portland Trail Blazer.
“You gotta kind of shift gears and figure out the moves and the steps to take to get with the team and what they’re asking for you to get completed and done.”
“It’s a mental shift that you have to try to do, just to focus on what’s in front of you.”
The league is a business, but it’s also a small one. Blazers’ guard CJ McCollum knows Powell’s trainer and it didn’t take long for McCollum to connect.
“They were texting about different things, trying to get me acclimated as quickly as possible.”
Despite the whirlwind 24 hours, the emotional goodbye with teammates he didn’t want to leave and a business decision he had no say in, Powell is ready to embrace his role in Rip City with an open mind.
“I really wanted to stay in Toronto but things you can’t control you can’t really harp on you just have to take it on the chin, control what you can control and move on. And look at your next chapter with an open mind.”
Portland may not have been Powell’s first choice – he’s not giving any less than everything he has in a Blazers’ uniform.
“No matter what’s going on on the court or in my life I’m always going to work to try to get better. Hopefully I’ll be able to instill that into the team and into the city and into the fans.”