Leon Powe: Down, But Not Out for the Count

Jay KingCorrespondent IMay 24, 2009

CHICAGO - MARCH 17: Leon Powe #0 of the Boston Celtics tests out an injured knee near the bench during a game against the Chicago Bulls on March 17, 2009 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agreees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

If I had to use one word to describe Leon Powe, it would be "hard-nosed."

It's been well-documented, but I think it's worth repeating, that Leon Powe had a very rough childhood.

When Leon was only seven years old, his brother accidentally lit his family's house on fire. After that point, Leon and his family, including his five siblings, were mostly homeless.

Leon spent a lot of time being a father to his brothers and sisters, when he should have been busy growing up. When he wasn't bouncing from place to place, Leon was in foster care.

After Leon spent a couple years in foster care, Leon's mother, who raised Leon and his siblings by herself, died of a heart condition. Growing up in such a difficult environment, Leon was forced to toughen up.

Well, Leon plays exactly how you'd think someone who has been forced to be such a survivor would play. He makes the most out of his physical talents. He stands only about 6'7" (according to draftexpress.com Pre-Draft Camp Measurements), but makes a living over-powering and out-working taller players down low for easy baskets and big-time rebounds.

Usually, 6'7" players have to play outside, lacking the size to compete with the NBA's power forwards and centers. Most 6'7" power forwards are out of the NBA and working somewhere else before they even know it.

Leon, though, has gotten past his lack of height. He has used his tough, hard-nosed play to carry him to a level his physical talents alone would not have allowed him to achieve. Prior to being injured in March, Leon had been playing inspired basketball, thriving in the absence of Kevin Garnett.

In three of the five games leading up to his March injury, Leon scored at least 20 points and registered at least 10 rebounds. He was hitting his stride at a time right when the Celtics needed him to, providing us with most of KG's statistical production.

Which is why it's so damn sad that Leon had to tear an ACL right after he came back from that March injury. Part of me thinks Leon came back too soon and sacrificed too much to try to rejoin the Celtics for the playoffs. Whether or not that's true, Leon is a warrior who has battled through pain and played through agony.

The injury couldn't have come at a worse time for Leon's career. He was poised to capitalize on a big free-agent contract after his terrific play during that March run. He was ready to leverage his additional playing time into a long-term contract.

Instead, Leon is back to square one, rehabilitating his injured knee and hoping that any team will sign him to a contract for next year.

I hope the Celtics re-sign him. Though Leon has proved himself to be injury-prone, he has also proved himself resilient. I know he will overcome the setbacks from this injury just as he has overcome everything else life has thrown his way.