Last year at this time, Joel Przybilla wasn’t even sure if he’d survive the February 24 NBA trade deadline and be a part of the Portland Trail Blazers for the rest of their season.
Now twelve months later and not having played since last March after a trade to Charlotte, the free agent center is back in limbo with the Blazers. Except this time around, Portland is playing the waiting game to see if Przybilla will accept the offer the Blazers extended for the remainder of the season and return to a team desperately in need of some interior toughness and an overall emotional lift to their mediocre season.
As The Oregonian’s Jason Quick broke down on Tuesday night, Przybilla’s agent Bill Duffy sat courtside with Blazers team president Larry Miller and watched as Portland smacked down the Tim Duncan and Tony Parker-less San Antonio Spurs, 137-97, at the Rose Garden.
“I think Portland is always the sentimental favorite for obvious reasons,” Duffy told The Oregonian. “Joel has a home here and he had the best years of his career here. And at this particular time, it looks like he is needed, too.”
“There is some optimism,” Duffy added. “He is strongly, strongly considering.”
While Przybilla is expected to make a decision Wednesday, he has more than Portland to consider.
The Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, and Milwaukee Bucks have all shown interest in the 32-year-old center (as have the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks), with the Heat already making an offer to Przybilla for the rest of the season as well. Although the Bulls have been in talks with Duffy over the last two months, don’t count out Przybilla’s hometown Bucks either. When Milwaukee lost center Andrew Bogut in late January with a fractured left ankle, Przybilla’s name was the first to surface as a replacement.
The other option for Przybilla: keep enjoying his family time and explore full-time retirement.
Knowing the kind of warrior Przybilla is, leaving last season as a lasting legacy of his 10-season career isn’t the way he’d like to be remembered. He suffered two ruptured patella tendons in a three-month stretch, appeared in only 36 games between the Blazers and Bobcats, and when he did play, he wasn’t the enforcing big man people in Portland grew to love and respect.
If Przybilla decides to return to the Blazers, Portland will have to shuffle around their 15-man roster to make room. Armon Johnson — the reserve guard who has only appeared in one game this season — could be the odd-man out, but there is one other name to consider: Greg Oden.
Considering the unfortunate news that Oden underwent another microfracture surgery on Monday, there remains the possibility the Blazers could release Oden in order to create a roster spot for Przybilla. Portland has some experience in this case. Former Blazer and current Indiana Pacers forward Jeff Pendergraph — who suffered a season-ending knee injury during the 2010 preseason — was released by Portland to create a roster spot. If that happens, what a week if would be for Oden. He’d go from being “cut on” to simply cut in order to open up space for Przybilla.
Irony at its finest – Przybilla a Blazer and once again taking the place of Oden at center.
Portland knows that story all too well. But how will this next chapter play out?