The Portland Trail Blazers traded Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, rookie Keon Johnson and a second-round pick in 2025.
The trade, coming just less than a week before the NBA’s trade deadline, moved the Trail Blazers under the luxury-tax threshold.
Both teams are in danger of having to go through the play-in tournament to get to the playoffs.
The Clippers have won two of their last three to even their record at 27-27. They have a 1 1/2-game lead over the Lakers for the eighth seed in the Western Conference, but trail Denver by 2 1/2 games for the sixth seed, which would avoid having to take part in the play-in tournament.
The Trail Blazers are 21-32 and in 10th place. They fell 96-93 at home to Oklahoma City on Friday night.
Portland Trail Blazers forward Norman Powell, right, keeps the ball away from Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Nate Billings)
Los Angeles has floundered most of the season due to injuries to All Stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. George has missed the past 22 games due to a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his shooting elbow. Coach Ty Lue said an MRI is scheduled for George’s on Feb. 24 to determine if it is healing or whether he will need season-ending surgery.
The Clippers are 10-12 with George out of the lineup. Their next game is Sunday at home against Milwaukee.
“I hope he’s feeling good. Just something to look forward to. Hope is stronger than fear,” Lue said Thursday night after the Clippers’ 111-110 victory over the Lakers.
The addition of Powell should help during George’s absence. Powell has averaged 18.7 points this season, helping the Blazers weather injuries and protocol absences. The six-year veteran came to Portland last year in a trade with Toronto but returns to Southern California. He grew up in San Diego and attended UCLA.
Lue was less optimistic about Leonard, admitting that he is unlikely to return this year. Leonard suffered a torn ACL during Game 4 of the Western Conference playoff series against Utah on June 14.
“We know Kawhi’s probably not going to come back, we don’t know the status of PG, but these guys continue to keep fighting. Every single night. And so that’s kind of how I had to play, that’s how I had to make it, so just seeing how these guys scrap and compete every single night, just makes me feel good – that’s the enjoyment I get from coaching this team.”
The Blazers are also dealing with the absence of a key player in six-time All-Star Damian Lillard, who had abdominal surgery in January and is out indefinitely.
The trade was the first major move under interim Blazers general manager Joe Cronin. He took over when Neil Olshey was fired in December after a workplace environment investigation.
Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said the move was about cap flexibility.
“Joe and I have so many talks and conversations about what NBA championship contending team roster looks like, and trying to find a way to get our roster to that point,” Billups said. “Today we lost some good players obviously that were really loved around here. But this is all a part of it. This is kind of the business of it, that we took some necessary steps to have the flexibility we’re going to need.”
Covington, in his ninth season, averaged 7.6 points and 5.7 rebounds for Portland.
Bledsoe, a guard in his 12th season, started 29 games for the Clippers this season, averaging 9.9 points and 4.2 assists.
Winslow has averaged 12.9 minutes a game as a reserve forward for the Clippers with 4.2 points and 3.6 rebounds. He posted a photo of a Trail Blazers hat on Instagram with the word “Vibes.”