That’s the question Joel Przybilla asked me as he sat down after practice last night in New Jersey. He’s got a point. I probably could dig back through my notes to retrieve Przybilla’s thoughts on once again being inserted into the starting lineup in place of Greg Oden, but I’d rather get an updated perspective.
But as it turns out, Przybilla doesn’t have much new to say, probably because this is his third go-round as the guy who was supposed to be an afterthought. When Oden was drafted in 2008, most assumed that was the end of Przybilla’s career in Portland. Didn’t happen. When Oden returned to the court in 2009, Przybilla was supposed to be permanently relegated to the bench. Didn’t happen, even when Oden was healthy, as Przybilla turned in his finest season as a pro in 42 starts. And now with Oden out for the season, “The Thrilla” once again finds himself in the starting five.
“That’s the NBA for you,” said Przybilla. “You always have to be ready. Not only myself, but there are a lot of guys on this team who are getting an opportunity now because unfortunately we’ve had a bunch of injuries. Everyone has to be ready, doesn’t matter if you’re starting or coming off the bench. We need everyone on this team to get a victory.”
There might not be anymore more ready to step in than Przybilla, in part because he’s had so much experience doing it. He’s started in 70 percent of the games he’s played throughout the course of his 10-year career, so all of this is old hat. Though Przybilla says he will have to modify the way he plays due to the rash of injuries the Trail Blazers have endured this season.
“I’ve got to pick and choose when I contest shots,” said Przybilla, “where in the past maybe if a guy was coming to the basket where you thought maybe you would foul him, give him a hard foul or something, now you’ve got to contest a little less. It depends on the team we’re playing. LaMarcus can play the five but if we’re playing a team that’s big, say Cleveland with Shaq and Ilgauskas, you know you’re going to play big minutes.”
While the defensive drop off between Przybilla and Oden is minor, the drop off on the offensive end unfortunately isn’t. Oden is a guy you call plays for, whereas Przybilla is a straight opportunist on offense. If there’s something easy, he’ll take it. If not, he’s kicking it back out. But even though he’s not going to put up big point numbers, his approach to offense could result in his teammates getting more and better looks than when Oden was in the starting role.
“I’ve always been a guy who doesn’t worry about my offense,” said Przybilla. “For me, whatever points I score are extra. Guys know what I do for this team. They know that I set a lot of screens for them to get shots and that’s a way for me to get involved in the offense.”
Taking what he can get, something Przybilla has been doing his entire career. It’s why staying prepared is so important. You never know when your number is going to be called. Or when you’re going to have to answer the same questions you answered the year before.