Powe's time is well spent
Three more pens. Another notebook. More film for the cameras. Those were Mikki Moore's suggestions to reporters for capturing all of Leon Powe's postgame musings in the Celtics' locker room last night.
Powe had 30 points, as well as 11 rebounds and 5 blocks, in a starting role in Boston's 102-92 win over the Memphis Grizzlies at TD Banknorth Garden. And when he emerged from the showers, dripping with confidence following a career high for points, he had only one more person to prove himself to.
"That wouldn't happen [with me around]," Kevin Garnett, who is recovering from a sprained knee, barked from the other room. "What do you average, 1.7 points, 0.1 rebounds?"
The ink began to run and the notebooks started to fill.
"You know who I guard every day [in practice]," Powe shouted back, referring to Garnett. "Don't be so surprised. I'll be back."
Powe then turned to the reporters, who were scribbling wildly.
"Me and KG were having a friendly talk," he said. "I want KG to come back. My body is getting used to these 40 minutes, but that's our leading man, and we miss him."
It was hard to tell the Celtics missed Garnett last night. Powe got down to business early, scoring 9 points and grabbing six rebounds while playing all but 12 seconds of the first quarter. In addition to crashing the boards, he caught the ball outside the paint and took it to the hole on several occasions. Powe made nine trips to the line in the quarter.
"Since he's been put in the starting role, he's been really playing well for us," said captain Paul Pierce. "We already know what he can do when he gets his opportunity. Tonight, it just showed. He was aggressive, he made plays. And that's what we need right now."
Powe matched Memphis's Rudy Gay with 18 first-half points, though the man with 10 career double-doubles was still three rebounds shy at that point. He scored just 2 points in the third, but Powe finished with a flourish, scoring 10 points in the fourth. He played all but two minutes of the second half, especially noteworthy with frontcourt players Garnett, Glen Davis, and Brian Scalabrine sidelined with injuries.
"I've been playing [more than 40 minutes] per game," said Powe. "That's a lot of minutes. That's a lot of opportunity. My teammates were doing a great job of finding me, and I just wanted to keep working."
Powe is still a relative NBA unknown, but his back story, publicized during last season's NBA Finals, as well as his 21-point outburst against the Lakers in Game 2 of that series, have given him some notoriety. Powe spent part of his childhood homeless, and his mother's death while Powe was in high school left him with responsibilities over his younger siblings.
On the court, knee injuries limited Powe to two seasons at the University of California. The injuries overshadowed his stellar final season, when the undersized power forward averaged 20.5 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
Powe came into last night's game averaging 7.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in a little more than 17 minutes per game this season. His averages are 18.4 points and 9.2 rebounds in his last five games.
"I know what I can do," said Powe. "I've scored the ball in college. I'm used to that. I didn't have too many opportunities here, but I'm coming off the bench to make the most of my minutes. When you're playing behind KG and other veterans, it's kind of difficult. It's just about me making the most of it."
Celtics players couldn't care less if Powe is known by others. Right now, he's plugging the massive hole left by Garnett's absence. And he's using that wide body to carve a niche for himself that isn't likely to go away, even when Garnett returns.
"You know he's going to play 30-plus minutes now," said Pierce. "When you have a guy that gets that opportunity, he's not going to look over his shoulder . . . it's a whole different attitude."