When Dwight Powell was traded from the Boston Celtics to the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 18, 2014, at the time he didn’t know that would turn out to be the best thing that happened to his NBA career.
While Powell only played five games for the Celtics before the trade, with the Mavs he’s been able to see his career take flight and skyrocket to the point that he has become a permanent fixture in coach Rick Carlisle’s rotation. More importantly, Powell has been able to soar in his personal life and put some roots down in Dallas, especially after signing a three-year, $33-million extension this past July.
“It’s a long list of the things that I’m proud of to say I’m a Maverick, and a lot of things that have improved in my life as a man and as a player have happened here,” Powell told Mavs.com after Thursday’s practice at the Lympo practice facilities. “From top to bottom (the Mavs’ organization) do a good job of setting an example of what it means to be a pro, what it means to be a member of this community, how to play, how to hold yourself on the court, and also how to act in Dallas in general and in the world.
“So I was very fortunate to find myself here in the first place, and even more fortunate to be able to stay here for this long because not everybody has that opportunity to be at one place for that long, let alone a place like this.”
Powell knows the Mavs have supported him through thick and thin, particularly last spring when he was a finalist for the NBA Cares Community Assist Award after he raised over $610,000 during A Night Of Hope function which provides education, resources and guidance to help patients and children cope with cancer.
Also, Powell made another meaningful contribution on Tuesday night in Denver when he played his first game this season after suffering a strained left hamstring earlier this month during the first week of training camp.
“Having him out there to start the game, right away, bang, two rolls, two fouls,” Carlisle said. “He makes a lot of great things happen for us.
“Having him out on the floor was a spiritual lift, even in the second half when he wasn’t playing.”
Translation: Although Powell scored four points and grabbed four rebounds in 14 impactful minutes in the first half, he was just as impactful in the second half – when he didn’t even play.
“He played great and he gave us a lot of things,” forward Kristaps Porzingis said. “He brought that energy that he had in the first half.
“To have his presence around for pregame and everything, he has great energy. It was awesome to have him back out there with us.”
For Powell, what was awesome was being part of a Mavs’ contingent that won a pivotal game in Denver. The Nuggets led the NBA in home wins last season with 34. And to do it on a night when the Mavs’ two superstars – Luka Doncic and Porzingis — combined for just 22 points on 7-of-26 shooting made it even more impressive.
“I think it’s important for us to pay attention to that and understand that we have a lot of tools, we have a lot of talent on this team, we can win with team basketball and more importantly we can win with defense,” Powell said. “It shows our depth, it shows our willingness to move the ball playing team basketball.
“We’ve got guys that can score and step into playmaking opportunities.”
Those playmaking opportunities for the 3-1 Mavs will be showing again on Friday at 8:30 p.m. CT when they host the Los Angeles Lakers (3-1) in a game that will be televised nationally on ESPN. Powell’s presence will be needed, too, since the Lakers have a bushel of quality big men in Anthony Davis (6-10), Dwight Howard (6-10) and JaVale McGee (7-0), not to mention one of the greatest players ever in LeBron James.
“Powell continues to do well and the plan going forward is to work his minutes up gradually,” Carlisle said. “There’s no number (of minutes) that I’m going to talk about (him playing against the Lakers), but the good thing is that he’s feeling good and progressing.
“He just does things that are unique. His screening, his rolling, his energy, his vibe with the team really adds a lot.”
And that vibe by Powell afforded him – against Denver – the opportunity to play alongside Doncic and Porzingis for the first time.
“They’re two extremely talented guys that bring a pretty diverse skill set to the game,” the 6-10 Powell said. “They present a lot of opportunities for themselves with their skill and their talent, but also for their teammates just by being out there.
“Although it may have seemed like those guys had poor shooting nights, they affected the game offensively just by being threats and finding guys and moving the ball and drawing the defense. Playing with them is fun.”
Last year Powell averaged a career-high 10.6 points and 5.3 rebounds, and shot a career-high 59.7 percent from the field in 21.6 minutes per game. He credits it all to the trade that totally changed his life.
“I’m very fortunate and very grateful and very appreciative,” Powell said. “And I try to take all of that and translate it into hard work and try to give back by improving to the best of my ability to help this team win and try to support the team the way they’ve supported me.”