In Appreciation Of Joel Przybilla
By caseyholdahl Posted in: Blazers, Lakers
Joel Przybilla joked after Wednesday night's loss to the Lakers that he "wanted to go out with a bang." Of course once I asked him officially, Joel said the extra bounce in his step had more to do with going up against a longtime rival than it did playing possibly his final game as a Trail Blazer. Personally, I think it was a little bit of both.
That game did end up being Przybilla's last in Portland before being traded along with Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks and two first-round picks to Charlotte in exchange for Gerald Wallace. Both Cunningham and Marks were important members of the team whose contributions will be missed, but their relatively short time here isn't comparable to the six plus seasons in which Przybilla patrolled the paint as Portland's go-to tough guy.
In his first season after joining signing as a free agent in the summer of 2004, the Trail Blazers won just 27 games, five fewer wins than Portland already has this season. That team was coached by Maurice Cheeks, in his final season in Portland, and featured the likes of Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Derek Anderson, Ruben Patterson, Nick Van Exel and then-rookie Ha Seung-Jin. All those players, along with everyone else on that roster, are now long gone. Only Przybilla remained, not that he necessarily planned it that way.
"I've seen a lot," said Przybilla of his time in Portland. "It's been a joy. I have memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. When I first signed here my first year, I never expected (staying), seriously. I was expecting to maybe play a year or two here and move on."
Instead, he played through his initial two-year contract and then re-signed as a free-agent when he could have gone to another team offering more money and a better chance at winning a championship. Along the way he started a family, had two kids and became a beloved member of the community.
"I've been here over six years," said Przybilla with a touch of disbelief in his voice. "I have a lot of friends out here. My family enjoys it out here. It's a home to us."
All told, he played in 395 games as a Trail Blazer, starting 273 of those, became one of the franchises' all-time leaders in blocks, committed 1119 fouls (most of the hard variety) while providing a physical presence that was desperately lacking before he arrived.
"Where it's come from when I first got here to where it is at now...," said Przybilla, his voice trailing off. "I'd definitely love to stick around, but like I said, it's a business. I've lasted a lot longer here than I expected when I first signed here seven years ago."
Now, Joel begins his career with the Charlotte Bobcats trying to get his body back to where it was before he ruptured his patella tendon. There have been questions about whether he'll give it another go next season, questions which Przybilla himself is not prepared to answer.
"My biggest thing is I want to see how my knee reacts," said Przybilla of his prospects for playing a 12th NBA season. "I've got to have a good summer and get my knee right, because right now it's still not 100 percent.
"My biggest thing is I want to next season be with an organization that is competing for a championship. I want to be a part of something. I don't want to be bouncing around the league for the next few years. I want to be in the right situation for me and my family."
For the past six seasons, that right situation has been in Portland. It may never be that way again, but even if it isn't, rest assured that Przybilla will be just fine.
"At the end of the day," said Przybilla, "I get to go home and see my family, be with my wife and kids, and that's all that matters to me."