Leon Powe was probably my favorite member of the Boston Celtics over the last few years. Quiet, hardworking, willing to do the dirty work under the basket, Powe was perfect in the role the played for the Celtics. The fact that he had overcome so much in his life added to the appeal of Leon Powe as a person.
He grew up in the foster system in the Oakland area, trying the best he could to keep tabs on and take care of his younger siblings, Powe ended up the University of California, where he led the Pac-10 in rebounding at a freshman, and then returned from a devastating knee injury his sophomore year to become only sixth player in history to lead the conference in scoring and rebounding during his junior year, with totals of 20 points per game and 10 rebounds per game. Despite being somewhat undersized as a power forward at 6-8, 240 lbs, Powe was drafted in the second round of the NBA draft by the Nuggets and then traded to the Celtics.
During his three seasons with the Celtics, Powe endeared himself to fans with his tenacious, powerful style of play. It seemed he routinely outmuscled bigger and stronger players under the basket and dunked on them. Off the court, he founded a non-profit organization in the Bay Area to give support and education to children who are enduring a similar upbringing to what Powe himself had. Despite not being a highly paid NBA star, Powe was certainly among the busiest when it came to charity and off the court activities. It seemed this offseason was going to be his chance to finally make some good NBA money, but a torn ACL in the playoffs against Chicago put his entire NBA career in jeopardy.
Comments made by Doc Rivers seemed to indicate that he really hoped to keep Powe around, and bring him back next season. That didn’t happen. The Celtics chose to allow him to become an unrestricted free agent, with the team perfunctorily wishing him well on the way out the door. It sure seemed like good-bye, something I didn’t understand at the time, and still don’t understand. River talked often about the quality of person that Leon Powe is. That you really want more those on your team. Powe was facing another long rehab following his knee surgery, but it seemed that he would be a guy that the Celtics would take care of. Maybe something happened behind the scenes, but I doubt it. This was just a business decision. The Celtics felt they couldn’t afford to tie up a roster spot with a guy who won’t be back until, at the very soonest, the All Star break.
It’s their loss. This week Powe received an two year offer sheet with the Celtics biggest rivals in the Eastern Conference, the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. Powe agree to the deal, and pending his physical, will make the deal official. This one hurts. It’s not quite Johnny Damon going to the Yankees, because I’ve got absolutely no animosity towards Powe. It’s just going to hurt seeing Powe in that Cavs uniform when he finally makes it back. Given his history, I have absolutely no doubt Leon Powe will make it all the way back. Let’s hope the damage to the Celtics is minimal.