SALT LAKE CITY — Norm Powell is due some good fortune.
The man is playing the best basketball of his career and in the process providing the Raptors with a much needed source of create-your-own offence. He’s been all-worldly of late earning his first NBA Eastern Conference player of the week averaging more points (31.7) in those games than any other player in the league.
But for the third time in the past 2 1/2 months, Powell left a game looking like me might be spending some extra time on the trainer’s table in the coming weeks.
This time it was an unfortunate collision with his own teammate as he and the rock-solid OG Anunoby collided under the basket trying to prevent Mike Conley from scoring. Both men stayed down following the collision. Eventually Anunoby got up, but Powell needed help to do so.
Officially it’s a left ankle sprain which sounds harmless enough until one remembers rookie Dewan Hernandez is still not back on the court 2 1/2 months after spraining his own ankle.
The good news is Powell left the arena under his own power, without the aid of a walking boot or crutches. That would appear to be a good sign.
A further good sign is that Powell will have four full days before he even has an opportunity to get into another game thanks to the unique mid-season break the Raptors began as soon as they dispatched the Utah Jazz on Monday night.
Powell seems to be running down a checklist of injuries he can incur. First it was a left shoulder subluxation that cost him 11 games. Then it was a broken bone in his left hand that cost him another nine. Now it’s the left ankle.
Through it all Powell has remained steadfast in his positivity, no small feat in a season that has seen so much frustration in between all that success.
“I just think where I am mentally I have been able to stay focused on certain things and locked in,” Powell said following his most recent return from the injured list. “My whole demeanor about whatever is being thrown at me is pretty much even-keeled and positive no matter what is. Injuries suck but you can’t look at it as a why-me situation or negative or be upset about it. You have to find a positive out of it and run with it.”
That was just seven games ago. Powell does not need another extended absence.
THE MISUNDERSTOOD McCAW
Pat McCaw knows what works on a basketball court.
He may not always score like the Raptors’ fan base would like (we base that exclusively on what we’ve witnessed on social media), but his specialty is the on other side of he ball, something both his teammates and coaches appreciate.
Here’s what Kyle Lowry had to say about McCaw after Sunday’s game in which McCaw played over 42 minutes and scored just two points.
“Everything,” Lowry said. “ He does everything the right way. He plays basketball the right way. When he came from the Warriors he got two rings there and he comes to us and just plays basketball the right way.”
Pascal Siakam has seen the posts, too. The one’s wondering why Nick Nurse was giving minutes to McCaw when they could be going to a scorer like Matt Thomas or Terence Davis II.
“Pat has always got an assignment on somebody,” Siakam said. “You see him out there guarding the best player and picking him up full-court and doing the little things. Most of the time it doesn’t show up on the scoreboard. But he’s so valuable for us just because no matter what we are doing, box and one, we can send him on somebody and he’s going to key in on that person and do his job defensively.”
Nurse, who probably hears about McCaw’s minutes as much as anybody said he’s not getting tired at all trying to explain why the reserved McCaw is so valuable to Nurse and the Raptors fortunes.
“Not really,” Nurse said. “I know he doesn’t show up in the numbers, in the stats.”
But knows this. As soon as Norm Powell went down, Nurse and his coaching staff had a decision to make. Who fills those minutes and the discussion was almost immediate.
“Almost right away when Norm went down,” Nurse began. “We got to the first timeout and had to decide where to go. We had to decide whether to go with offence and keep that ticking over or defence and get Pat in there.
“I think (assistant coach Nate Bjorkgren) said this is a night where McCaw is going to play 38 minutes so we put him in and he was wrong, it was 42 minutes.”
McCaw had a bad turnover late in the game but all his teammates were talking about the game were the 42 minutes of dogged and effective defence that he provided.
The Raptors don’t play again until Saturday when the Detroit Pistons and former head coach Dwane Casey come to Toronto. The team won’t return to the court until Thursday and Friday when it will re-convene at its practice facility.