Closer to full strength: Powell and Siakam make their return

By: Holly MacKenzie

While Norman Powell had been sidelined with a shoulder injury over the past three weeks, he remained active on the sidelines. If you were to watch him during a timeout of a Raptors game, decked out in dress clothes rather than his uniform, you’d see him pulling aside younger Raptors teammates to provide pointers. During game action, you’d see him continuing to talk to teammates young and old, sharing words of encouragement. Despite being out of action since injuring his shoulder in a win against the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 18, Powell had continued to be extremely engaged as the Raptors went 6-5 without three starters (the team lost Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol in the same game along with Powell) over this span.

On Sunday, Powell remained engaged, but this time he was able to do so in uniform as he and Siakam each made their return to the starting lineup after that 11-game layoff as the Raptors hosted the San Antonio Spurs. Though the Spurs would use a big fourth-quarter effort to come back from an 18-point third-quarter deficit to escape with a 105-104 road victory, getting back two healthy starters was another kind of win for the Raptors.

“It felt good,” Powell said of being back on the court. “To be out there, running up and down competing, my body felt good. Legs probably needed a little second to get underneath me, but other than that it was good.”

His game looked good, too. Though he and Siakam were both playing under a minutes restriction, Powell finished with 20 points, three rebounds, four assists and a steal in 31 minutes of play. He shot 8-of-14 from the floor, including 4-for-7 from beyond the arc, drilling corner threes without hesitation when his teammates found him for a shot. Powell came into the game knowing that he would be playing under a minutes restriction, but after being so pumped to return to game action, it didn’t mean he enjoyed it.

“I was mad when I first got subbed out the game because of the minutes restriction,” he said. “I was like, ‘Yo, why am I coming out right now?’ It took me a minute to realize I was going to be on a minutes restriction before the game … But it’s just trusting the training staff. They’ve done a great job with all of us, making sure we’re 100 percent [healthy] and ready to compete so it’s just trusting them and knowing they have a job to do and they’re doing what they need to do to keep us out there.”

Powell said something that stood out to him while watching from the bench was making sure to get paint touches on offence to help open up the floor. He also shared his observations with his teammates and reminded younger players about the opportunity that can arise from guys being out of the lineup. “A certain few guys, I was talking to individually about what they can do, how they can improve and take advantage of the opportunity in front of them.”

One of those players is rookie Terence Davis. Davis has mentioned the support he’s received from Powell as well as Serge Ibaka as he continues to navigate the jump from college to the NBA. “Just being a vet,” Davis said of the role Powell has played for him this season. “Sometimes telling me stuff on the bench, sometimes pulling me aside at halftime. [Telling me] to pay attention to detail. Every little detail matters, paying attention to little things on defence and offence.”

“It’s kind of like having a cheat code,” Davis said. “[Helping to] learn how to play at this level.”

Though Davis will now be sharing the floor with Powell rather than having his veteran teammate watch from the sideline, one thing that will remain the same is Powell continuing to be in his ear. As Powell works himself back into form in the games ahead, his approach will remain the same. “Just continue to roll with it,” he said. 

“Make the most out of the minutes you’re getting and just try to talk to and help the guys when you’re out with anything you see.”

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