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.