Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Pro In Przybilla

Everyone in the NBA plays a role. Some guys are superstars capable of taking over a game via offense, defense or sheer will to win. Some are roles players; content in doing the little things that help good teams become great. Then there are specialists, capable of changing a franchise by way of mastering one specific skill. And of course, there are any number of players who fall somewhere in between.

But ask Nate McMillan how to best characterize the role that Joel Przybilla and he’ll give a much more simplistic explanation.

“Joel is a pro,” said McMillan. “He’s a guy that, regardless of the situation, he always comes ready to play. You always know what to expect out of him. When you’re coaching a team, the one thing you want out of your guys is to know what you’re going to get from them night in, night out. In Joel, you know what you’re going to get in practice. You know what you’re going to get in the game. He’s going to give it to you. That’s the best thing a coach can get from a player.

“He’s going to be in the right place. He’s going to work hard. He’s going to give you the effort every night. His strengths are defending the basket, rebounding the ball, setting screens. We get that every night from him.”

That’s high praise from McMillan, a man who values hard work as much as any coach in the league. And it speaks to the core of what makes Joel Przybilla a perfect mentor for a young Trail Blazers squad. Not a freakish athlete or son of basketball royalty, Przybilla has made his way in the league thanks to good old-fashioned grit and stick-to-itiveness, traits he picked up from those who came before him in the fraternity of the NBA.

“I’ve been around a lot of veterans that taught me the game; taught me to be professional on and off the court,” said Przybilla. “A lot of it is just my personality. I take my job very seriously. I don’t know how long this is going to last, so I want to enjoy it and be professional. “

That desire to stick around in a league that has chewed up and spit out so many would-be pros drives Przybilla to bring his best every day he steps foot on the court. It’s what pushes him to fight through an endless list of nagging injuries; injuries that other players would gladly accept a stint on the inactive list to heal.

But while Przybilla’s doggedness is partially fueled by his competitive nature, there’s something else that keeps him taking to the floor when others would take a seat: his three year-old son Anthony.

“Having Anthony has changed me a lot,” said Przybilla. “I think I can say it made me more of a pro. Before I had him I thought I was professional, but having a kid makes you realize that you have to take your job very seriously, because a lot of what I’m trying to do is for him, to make his life better.

“I can tell he looks up to me so much. I want to mold him into a great human being and if I’m not doing the right thing, why would he? I don’t want my son looking back saying ‘Why did you do this?’ or ‘Why didn’t you do that?’”

So Przybilla keeps doing everything in his power to make sure he never has to answer those questions. Whether it’s playing through injuries, standing up for his teammates or accepting a role as a backup, the man known to the Trail Blazers faithful as “The Thrilla” continues to, as Coach McMillan would say, “bring it” every day. It’s the only role a pro knows how to play.


Javon said...

And this is why I bought my first Trail Blazer Jersey...#10. He is my favorite player on the team..He is the glue that keeps the parts together. The parts are bright, shiny, and when together mold into a cohesive unit...but without the glue...are worth-less. He is humble and yet dependable, hard-working and does not back down! Go Przybilla!

Busta3 said...

Here! Here! I second that. Joel is the consummate professional and no one, works hard on every play, and no one (and I mean no one) can ever call him soft. Last year when Phoenix was in town and Shaq took exception to Joel’s defense, the 300lbs. O’Neil went after JP trying to intimidate him but Joel being Joel got right in Shaq’s face and never backed down. That was about 10 feet from Kevin Pritchard and Paul Allen’s seats and while I don’t recall if they were both at that game, if they were it would solidified Joel’s future in Portland for the next 3 years. It sure made an impression on me.

This year Joel is playing as well as he has in his at any point in his career and he has earned a starting position even when Greg O is healthy. What I respect about our big man is that when Nate has chose to start Greg, Joel accepts his role, provides advice to the younger big man and never goes “Stephan Marbury” on us and runs his mouth about getting more playing time. He just picks-up his lunch bucket, puts on the hard hat and go to work doing the things that most players are not very good at: defense, boxing out, rebounding, setting picks and getting after every loose ball.

That’s why my son wears #10’s jersey.

stiv said...

The Vanilla Guerilla:

Joel is my favorite player on the team too. And you know why? After that smack in the head that Blake took last night in San Antonio, the first person on the scene was Joel. And over and over again its the same case. Joel isn't afraid of anyone in the NBA, and one gets the idea while watching how he responds to aggression, that he'd take a bullet for anyone of his team mates. Good on you Joel.

Greg said...

I was going to type out a long response about all the things that I like about Joel, but I decided the best thing that could be said is this: I'm glad he's a Portland Trailblazer.

Joel rocks, period!

millertime said...

hope he stays in portland for the rest of the carrer

afrozenmaster said...

I gotta agree w/ y'all. Joel's toughness and work ethic are invaluable. Aside from #7, he's the mvp on this team. He's a true role model for the younger Blazers and fans. Thanks Joel!