The Trail Blazers’ 50-year anniversary season is temporarily on pause as the NBA goes on hiatus to slow the spread of COVID-19. During that break, Blazer’s Edge is counting down the top 100 Blazers: players, executives, and other influencers who made the franchise what it is today.
No. 64 | Joel Pryzbilla
Games Played with Blazers: 422 Regular Season, 6 Postseason
*PTS: 4.7 | REB: 7.1 | OREB: 2.2| FG%: 57.4
*Statistics are pulled from a player’s time in Portland
Joined Club: August 2004, signed as free agent
Departed Club: February 2011, traded to the Charlotte Bobcats with Sean Marks and Dante Cunningham for Gerald Wallace
Joined Club: February 2012, signed as free agent
Departed Club: August 2012. left via free agency
Place in History: The Portland Trail Blazers have had bad luck with once-in-a-lifetime, franchise-changing centers. I don’t even need to recount the names of all the fives the Blazers have selected with Top 3 picks in the NBA Draft. You know them by heart, and how each of them fell.
On the other hand, the Blazers have done very well with understated, underappreciated, blue-collar centers who come out of nowhere, work hard, and leave an imprint on the franchise bigger than their resumé would have suggested coming in.
Joel Przybilla is the poster boy for just that kind of center.
If you look at Portland’s roster in 2004, when Przybilla first joined the club, and 2007, when the next Big Era for the franchise properly began, only two names appear in both. Travis Outlaw, a former high-school draft pick with boundless potential and the ability to play multiple positions, and Przybilla. In the midst of the quickest, most dramatic housecleaning the franchise had ever seen, the Blazers just couldn’t quit their young phenom or their blue-collar center.
Joel Przybilla brought all the things that didn’t show up in the boxscore. Not that his stats were awful; his per-minute rebounding and blocked shot rates were always up there. He wasn’t a numbers machine or a brain guy, though. He gave the team heart and backbone.
Przybilla would not back down from anyone. Had be been cast in Space Jam, he would have been ejected for shoving all of the Monstars on their backsides within the first six minutes of action (also, the movie would have been Rated R for language, at least for anybody who could read lips). He set picks, rebounded, and defended the same way: with little fuss and really hard. He was the rock over which all the turmoil of the Jail Blazers era washed, leaving him relatively unchanged. Then he became one of the quiet cornerstones for the new, Brandon Roy-led Blazers, showing how to impact the game when the ball didn’t come your way and nobody could spell your name.
All of this was more remarkable because, once upon a time, Przybilla was supposed to be somebody. He was a McDonald’s All American and a lottery pick. As it turned out, he WAS somebody. He just redefined what “being somebody” meant. If it had to be 20 points per game off of a half-dozen offensive moves, that wasn’t him. If you wanted someone to hit the floor with who wasn’t going to quit, who would help clean up your team’s mistakes, and who would make the easy shot when it was there, that was Joel Przybilla. As with many of the players on this list, he gave the team just what they needed, when they needed it.
For 8 seasons, 422 games as the bluest of blue-collar centers, the archetype of the model in Portland, Joel Przybilla earns the No. 64 spot on our Top 100 Trail Blazers players and influencers list.
You want dunks? Nah. Hush and watch him rebound 26 times in the same game.
Or, you know, this.
Discuss your thoughts and memories of Przybilla below, and check back every day as we continue the countdown to No. 1.