Powell reflects on Raptors career, emotional farewells in Players' Tribune

Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

It's been an emotional week for Norm Powell.

Last Thursday, the 27-year-old soon-to-be free agent was traded from the Toronto Raptors to the Portland Trail Blazers. Three days later, as basketball fate would have it, he faced his old club for the first time. That meeting between his new team and his old one also presented the opportunity for Powell to share many emotional goodbyes with his now-former coaches, teammates and friends.

He wrote about those tearful farewells, and about his place in the Raptors family -- and the core that won the 2019 NBA Championship -- in a personal piece published Wednesday morning in The Players Tribune.

"Everyone who was a part of this thing — everyone who really cared about this thing we were building together: that's family, to me," Powell wrote. "And when y’all decide on my legacy here ... or when you’re just looking back on those teams and my name comes up ... I guess I hope that’s what gets mentioned.

"I mean, I hope y’all talk first about Kyle, and DeMar, and Fred, and Kawhi, and Pascal and OG and so many others. I hope y’all talk about them until you run out of voice. But then at some point, just before the end of that conversation, I guess I like to imagine someone chiming in maybe, like, Yo — also? Shoutout to NORM. Dude worked his ass off. Had nothing handed to him, but he was a grinder. He was tough. And he LOVED being a Raptor.

Norm Powell, man. Yeah.

He was one of us."

Here are a few excerpts from his thank you letter to the Raptors and its fans:

On the "shock" of being traded last week:
"I wouldn’t say I had NO idea a trade might be on the table. I understand the way things work ... I’m in a position where I can help a contender (and I’ll do that). They’re in a position where maybe they want to get younger (and they did that).

"But even with all of that said, it still caught me off-guard. Not just because of the way I’ve been playing this season, but also the bigger picture — I always thought of myself as part of the core that was being built around. Me, Freddy, Pascal, we all kind of came up together. We’re all about the same age. We’re thick as thieves, man. And I really felt like our group, plus OG, we were destined to be the next great Raptors team."

On difficult, emotional goodbyes with teammates prior to Sunday's game in Tampa:
"It was straight-up waterworks. I started breaking down crying … all the memories that I’d been holding back for those last couple of days, they came rushing back in.

"[Raptors assistant coach Jama Mahlalela] and I took a walk down the hall, had a heart-to-heart, talked about my future, talked about how it’s okay to have these emotions, talked about how so many changes in life can end up being blessings in disguise.

"Then we ran into Kyle [Lowry], and I’ll be honest ... I had to cry some more. Kyle, along with DeMar, he’s been my true vet, so there’s a lot of history there. And when I saw him, he just embraced me — let me get those emotions out. And then he gave me one final piece of Kyle wisdom.

"He said, 'You will always be a part of this history.'"

On his most emotional goodbye -- the one he shared with Fred VanVleet:
"That moment with Fred, it meant a lot. He’s my best friend. But beyond that, I feel like he’s been this driving force behind a lot of how I’ve grown as a player ... and vice versa. That’s just how it’s always been with us. We’ve pushed each other. As competitors, for sure — it’s that second-round pick / undrafted dude hunger, I think. That underdog mentality. I mean, we had to stop playing one-on-one against each other, there had to be a ban on it, because of how competitive we got, all the little scraps we would get in. But it was always about friendship with us first.

"Freddy’s my Day One.

"And it’s tough as hell, the idea of not being teammates with that dude anymore."

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