Dwight Powell is the latest in a growing line of international players who not only the Mavericks have acquired and developed, but that the city of Dallas has embraced and adopted as their own.
You can add Powell to Eduardo Najera and J.J. Barea – and, of course, Dirk Nowitzki as international ambassadors of various origin who have become a part of the DFW fabric.
The native of Toronto, Canada, has enjoyed a steadily rising NBA career that hit a speed bump about 18 months ago when he ruptured his right Achilles tendon.
As it turns out, that unfortunate turn of events was followed by the COVID-19 outbreak, a serious disruption of the league’s version of normalcy, a once-in-history Texas blizzard and the continued impressive development of the second international superstar Powell has played with – Luka Dončić.
It’s been a lot to digest for the 6-10 Powell, who once was considered a throw-in with Rajon Rondo in the trade from Boston in 2014. The Mavericks’ main asset in that trade was Jae Crowder.
In the end, Powell has been the keeper in the deal, with Rondo lasting less than a season with the Mavericks.
Powell’s value was clear late this season when he was fully recovered from the Achilles issue and averaged 9 points and 6.3 rebounds in the last 10 games. He also had eight points and seven rebounds in less than 22 minutes in Game 5 against the Los Angeles Clippers, which would be the Mavericks’ last victory this season.
To say the least, it’s been an interesting ride since his injury.
“I learned a lot about a lot of things – how to stick with it, how to come back from injury,” Powell said during his media chat after his exit interview with coach Rick Carlisle and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson. “And this year was obviously strange for a lot of reasons. For me, coupled with the rehab process and trying to figure out this new climate in terms of society wrapped around (COVID-19 during the season), I learned a lot.
“I think there’s a lot of silver linings riddled throughout this experience we’ve had, really, the last two seasons, considering the COVID-19 situation and the injury. So for me, it’s been a good learning experience and I’m looking forward to applying some of those lessons as we move into this offseason.”
The first order of business for Powell is to try to help a rapidly improving Canadian national team make the Olympics this summer. Their training camp opens Monday.
But while he’ll always be a Canadian at heart, Powell readily admits he considers himself a transplant Texan.
Like everybody on the roster, he gets paid to play and help win games. But it is impossible to discount the impact that the 2014 second-round draft pick has had in Dallas.
His impact in the community has been far-reaching. He has helped families deal with unexpected costs when their kids are hospitalized. He has been a constant giver at holiday time.
And he has done so selflessly in large part because of his mother, who he lost to breast cancer in 2012. In 2018, he created the Dwight Powell Children and Family Support Fund in partnership with UT Southwestern Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center to help patients and their families cope with the hardships of cancer.
That year, he raised more than $600,000 with his sold-out “Night of Hope” fundraiser.
That generous spirit has made Powell a treasured member of the community, which he also has embraced for other reasons.
“From Day One that I got here, this has been a tough city,” Powell said. “It’s been a city that’s always supported us through thick and thin and been able to deal with adversity, so it’s no surprise to see the community step up when they saw things that they needed to speak about in terms of social justice. And we saw the community step up when COVID-19 was a big issue and communities needed help.
“I wasn’t surprised when one of the worst winter storms came through this state and power was out and people had to share homes with neighbors and share food and water with neighbors – and there was no surprise to me that this city battled through all of those.
“And, on top of all that, still rooted for us and were supporting us. This is an amazing city with amazing people. They’ve proved that year after year to me and it’s a blessing to call everyone here my neighbor.”
As for the team on the court, much has changed in the time Powell has been a Maverick.
In 2015 when he arrived, that playoff team was anchored by Monte Ellis, Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler, all of whom are long gone.
But the new generation of Dončić, Jalen Brunson, Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. has kept Powell excited as he enters the second season of a three-year contract that pays him $33-million over the life of the deal.
“I think we’re definitely making strides, year after year,” Powell said. “This has been a great learning experience, with our ability to kind of hone in on our craft the last year with a bunch of distractions and adversity. I think it’s important to look back on some of the ways we were able to make things work. I think we’re definitely making progress. That’s the most important thing.”