Last week, the Portland Trail Blazers checked off arguably their most important box of the offseason, agreeing to a five-year, $90 million deal with Norman Powell. For the first time since signing that lucrative deal, Powell joined Blazers courtside reporter Brooke Olzendam to discuss the process of that contract, his conversations with the front office and players, and why he was most excited to Portland.
Powell’s initial quote — the one Blazers fans have already been circulating across social media — came when considering what went into his thinking before signing the five-year deal. He spoke glowingly of the fanbase as well as his own excitement about being able to experience the process from the start of the season to the finish.
“Honestly, it doesn’t seem real. Just the whole process, the actual number. It’s been a crazy ride for me from start to finish. I’m excited to be here long-term, be fully embraced. I was only here half of the season and the Playoffs. The organization and the team, the fanbase made me feel like I was one of the guys like I’ve been here for three or four years already, so to really be able to take it in from start-to-finish next year, hopefully have the fans fully back, and have that crazy atmosphere that we felt a little bit in the Playoffs, I’m really excited to be fully part of the family and the organization.”
He also hit on the dialogue had with the front office, ranging from how Chauncey Billups was planning to utilize him to Neil Olshey’s analytically-driven mindset — in regards to the net rating the Blazers’ starters had with Powell in the fold — and how to further expedite that process. When asked about how he personally wanted to be used in 2021-22, he hit on two notable facets: additional transition play, as well as more freedom to create off-ball opportunities for Lillard and McCollum in drive-and-kick situations.
The Blazers were also able to return a level of championship pedigree through Powell, a 2019 NBA Finals winner. Olzendam asked Powell to gauge his expectations about whether or not he felt Portland could win a championship, and Powell had this to say:
“I think it’s very attainable this upcoming season. You saw it through the numbers. I’m not much of a numbers guy, but there were some positives that came out of this time, and I think, like I said before that, me coming in and trying to figure everything out. Nurk coming back, CJ coming back, and just trying to make it all match. I thought we did a great job in doing that, but I also feel like we let some things slide in the Playoffs. I think everybody felt that with the early exit, especially being favored to win, and not being able to fully go out there and be able to put a full series together to take us to the next round to see what we could do with it, I think there’s another level we can get to defensively.
I’ve talked to Chauncey about that, and he’s very much on the same page with me in how we’re going to change the way we play defense, be more physical, do more things throughout the course of the game, different coverages, different schemes. Getting up into the ball, forcing and holding guys accountable on that end of the ball and not just offensively, so I’m really excited about that. I’m a defensive guy, really physical. I like getting into guys. I like competing. That’s a big part of basketball that I think we can definitely take a huge leap. I think Chauncey and Neil knows that, and that’s going to be a focal point. If we’re able to do that while being able to boost our offensive net rating as Neil likes to say, I think we’ll be in great shape.”
Over a 27-game sample size, Powell averaged 17.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game on 44-36-88 percentage splits, and saw those numbers either stabilize or improve in the postseason. The Blazers were also 5.4 points per 100 possessions better with him on-court.
The link to the rest of the video can be found above.