Blazers’ Przybilla out indefinitely with ruptured patella

The nightmare continues for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Blazers center Joel Przybilla suffered a ruptured right patella tendon and patella dislocation during the first quarter of Portland’s 85-81 road victory Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks. He is out indefinitely, and could miss the remainder of the season.

Przybilla played eight minutes against the Mavericks, recording five rebounds, one block and one point. He fell hard with less than four minutes left in the first period of Tuesday’s game, and was replaced by forward Juwan Howard with 3 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Przybilla’s absence, coupled with the recent loss of center Greg Oden, leaves the Blazers without a healthy true center on the team’s 16-man roster. Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge — the team’s starting power forward — will likely fill in for Przybilla, and Howard should hold down the starting position during the interim.

Portland (18-12) rallied from a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit to outscore Dallas 27-16 during the final period. Brandon Roy scored a team-high 23 points for the Blazers, while Aldridge recorded 19 points and a team-high 12 rebounds. Roy and Aldridge combined to play 86 minutes for Portland, who ended an 11-game road losing streak to the Mavericks.

Following the victory, though, Aldridge said he did not believe it when he saw Przybilla go down.

“I was in shock,” said Aldridge, during a postgame radio interview.

Przybilla averaged 4.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks through 29 games (eight starts) this season. He assumed the starting role when Oden went down Dec. 5 with a season-ending left patella fracture.

The 7-foot-1, 255-pound Przybilla played in all 82 regular-season games for the Blazers last season. He averaged 5.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 23.8 minutes in 2008-09, and was a key member of a Portland team that won 54 games and made the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2003.

Przybilla, who joined the Blazers in 2004, played in at least 76 games during three of his first five years with the franchise.

Przybilla’s injury is a severe blow to a Portland team whose early-season battle with major injuries has prevented the Blazers from fulfilling the high expectations that initially surrounded this season. Przybilla, Oden, Nicolas Batum, Travis Outlaw, Rudy Fernandez, Jeff Pendergraph and Patty Mills have all dealt with serious injuries this year. Oden is out for the season; Batum and Outlaw are not expected to return until after the 2010 All-Star break; and Fernandez and Mills are not due back until January. Portland was recently awarded a hardship exemption by the NBA — which allowed the Blazers to temporarily add a 16th player — as a result of the team’s injury issues. In addition, Portland coach Nate McMillan is recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, while owner Paul Allen and assistant coach Maurice Lucas are battling serious health issues.

Przybilla’s injury increases the chances that Portland will be forced to soon make a trade to address its lack of depth at the center position. The Blazers had previously held off from making a move, in the hope that the team would hold ground while several players returned to the lineup. And Portland has gone 6-4 since Oden left the Rose Garden floor during the first quarter of a 90-89 victory over the Houston Rockets. However, with Przybilla and Oden both out, the Blazers’ once-promising season has received another major setback.

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