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 2025 second-round pick.
The trade, which came just under a week before the NBA’s trade deadline, pushed the Trail Blazers below the luxury tax threshold.
Both teams may have to go through the play-in tournament to qualify for the playoffs.
The Clippers have won two of their last three to tie their record at 27-27. They have a 1.5 game lead over the Lakers for the eighth seed in the Western Conference, but lead Denver by 2.5 games for the sixth seed, which would avoid having to participate in the qualifying tournament. .
The Trail Blazers are 21-32 and sit in 10th place. They were down 96-93 at home to Oklahoma City on Friday night.
Los Angeles floundered most of the season due to injuries to All Stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. George has missed the last 22 games with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow that pulls. Coach Ty Lue said an MRI is scheduled for George’s on Feb. 24 to determine if he is recovering or 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 is feeling well. Just something to look forward to. Hope is stronger than fear,” Lue said Thursday night after the Clippers’ 111-110 win 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 formal absences. The six-year veteran came to Portland last year on a trade from Toronto but is moving back to Southern California. He grew up in San Diego and attended UCLA.
Lue was less optimistic about Leonard, admitting he is unlikely to return this year. Leonard suffered a torn ACL in Game 4 of the Western Conference playoff series against Utah on June 14.
“We know Kawhi probably won’t come back, we don’t know the PG status, but these guys keep fighting. Each night. And so that’s kind of how I was supposed to play, that’s how I was supposed to do it, so just seeing how these guys fight and compete every night makes me feel good – that’s the pleasure that I experience coaching this team.
The Blazers are also facing the absence of a key player in six-time All-Star Damian Lillard, who underwent abdominal surgery in January and is out indefinitely.
The trade was the first major move under Blazers interim general manager Joe Cronin. He took over when Neil Olshey was fired in December after a working environment investigation.
Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said the decision was about cap flexibility.
“Joe and I have so many discussions and conversations about what the roster of the team vying for the NBA championship looks like and trying to figure out a way to get our roster to that point,” Billups said. “Today we lost some good players, obviously, who were really loved here. But that’s all part of it. That’s kind of the business, that we took the steps to have the flexibility that we will 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 averaged 12.9 minutes per 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.”
Johnson, just 19, has played 15 games for Los Angeles.
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