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Joel Przybilla Is Back At Practice

  1. Written by: caseyholdahl  / avg. rating: 5.0

    Joel Przybilla refers to himself as "a two-legged jumper," meaning he usually has both feet on the ground before he elevates to dunk, rebound, block, ect. It's not the preferred method of the high-fliers in the NBA, but it suits a workman like Przybilla just fine, especially considering that not too long ago jumping, whether it be off of one leg or two, was impossible for Przybilla.

    But after two surgeries to repair his right patella tendon and months of rehab, Przybilla finally returned to live contact practice on Sunday, 292 days after he suffered one of the more gruesome knee injuries a player can endure during a victory against the Dallas Mavericks.

    "It's been a long journey," said Przybilla. "I'm still not there, I've still got a lot of work to do. But it's just knowing what I went through and all the hard work that I put in is finally paying off. I'm out there and just enjoying it because it's been a long time."

    The center, entering his 11th season out of Minnesota, played four-on-four and five-on-five with the team during about an hour long practice session Sunday at the team's practice facility in Tualatin. The plan is to slowly work Przybilla back into shape while he builds confidence in the surgically-repaired right leg, making Sunday's practice a major milestone in his quest to return to the court.

    "I get a little tired a little easier, but that's going to come the more I get out there," said Przybilla. "Just confidence, believing what I can do. I've been off this leg for so long and the fact that now it's just getting comfortable believing that I can do certain things that I used to be able to do."

    Building that confidence up, much like working into game shape, is going to take time. It's difficult enough to return to the court after a major injury, and that's compounded by the fact that Przybilla re-injured the knee midway through his rehabilitation, leaving the cagey veteran known for his toughness understandably suspect.

    "We're kind of taking it day to day," said Przybilla. "The biggest thing right now is getting more comfortable out there because there's still a couple times, guys will be in the paint, I'd be cautious because I don't want someone landing on my leg."

    Przybilla should have plenty of time to get that confidence in his body back before he seeing time in the regular season. He wouldn't rule out being ready for action come the start of the regular season, which starts in a little less than three weeks, but the focus right now is on getting completely healthy rather than getting back in time to play the Suns on October 26.

    "We really don't have no date set," said Przybilla. "It's kind of day-to-day. I get more comfortable out there. Every day I've been working with Coach Buck Williams, with Greg and it's been getting better every day. I've getting more comfortable with that. Now the fact that, going on the practice court, hopefully every day gets better too. The way I'm progressing right now, hopefully it will be sooner than later.

    "If I miss two games at the beginning of the season, I'd would like to be out there, but I want to be playing at the end of the year more than anything."

    Head coach Nate McMillan was also hesitant to put any kind of date on Przybilla's return, preferring to play it safe rather than tempting fate with any kind of definitive statement regarding the center's availability.

    "I'm just thinking about the chances that we've got him on the floor today," said McMillan when asked whether the team thought Przybilla would be ready to play opening night. "We'll see where he's at, how he feels tomorrow after doing the most work, as far as 4-on-4, that he's done in a year.

    "The thing is he's on the floor. That's what I saw, a big guy out on the floor and moving with the team in live contact. He's still a ways away, but this was a good first step."

    A small step, but a good one for the center who also celebrated his birthday Sunday. But rather than reflecting on the 30th year of his life that provided some of the biggest challenges of his career, Przybilla says he's looking forward to the better days that he's already experienced in his 31st year on this earth.

    "I put that all behind me," said Przybilla. "I put a lot of work in this summer to get where I'm at now. And like I said, it's paying off. Great day, couldn't be any better."



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