Joel Przybilla might have said he didn't know what to expect when he checked in for the first time in front of the crowd at the Rose Garden, but I think he was playing dumb. After being here for seven seasons, Przybilla is well aware of the support hardworking players get from the sellout crowds in Portland, and they don't come any more hardworking that Joel. Maybe he didn't want to admit it, but he knew he was going to get a standing ovation. Numerous standing ovations, in fact.
"That was something," said Przybilla. "I means a lot. It just feels good to be out there. It's my seventh year here and I've been through some rough times here at the beginning, turning it around. The show of the fans, to appreciate me, that meant a lot to me and my family."
But that wasn't the most memorable part of the evening for Przybilla. That came with four seconds left to play in the third quarter.
Przybilla lay on the floor after Brian Cook gave Przybilla a two-handed shove while attempting a layup. Immediately, the four other Trail Blazers on the court rushed to Przybilla's aid, seemingly more to help him up that to get into the face of anyone on the Clippers. Baron Davis, who might have been confused by seeing teammates support each other, took this as some sort of aggressive act, and proceeded to shove Nicolas Batum in the back. A fracas ensues, the copout that is offsetting technical fouls are awarded to Davis, Craig Smith, Batum and Przybilla, Cook is tossed for a Flagrant 2 and the remainder of the game is contentious as best, violent at worst.
And it was so perfect for it to go that way. After all, Przybilla is a guy who likes to mix it up, let the opposing team know he's there. But it wasn't the contact or the jawing afterwards that warmed Joel's heart. It was that his teammates, who he had spent much of his career in Portland protecting, rushing to his aid without hesitation.
"It feels good," said Przybilla of the support. "It feels good that the guys got my back. Trust me, I've been on teams where guys get taken down and teammates don't step up for them. That means a lot. It goes a long way.
"I'll probably remember that play. To tell you the truth it might be the highlight of my season. It means a lot, man. I smile when I know these guys have my back because I've been on teams where guys ain't like that. It shows that the guys, we care for each other and we all want to win."
So to the fans who were at the Rose Garden on Sunday night, Joel appreciates the love. He really does. But when it comes to what he'll remember from his first home game in almost a year, you'll have to take a backseat to Przybilla's teammates.