Przybilla returns to Blazers practice

Tualatin — Some might label an hour-long workout that leaves them gasping for air a “chore” or a “nuisance.”

Joel Przybilla would call it the best birthday present he could ask for.

The Blazers center returned to practice Sunday for the first time since rupturing his right patella last December, working out in full-contact drills for approximately 60 minutes. And while Przybilla said the twice-surgically-repaired knee “isn’t bad,” but still “not where it needs to be,” simply returning to the court was a major landmark for the 12-year veteran.

“It’s been a long journey, all the work I went through. I’m just enjoying it because it’s been a long time,” said Przybilla, who turned 31 Sunday. “The biggest thing right now is getting more comfortable out there.”

Przybilla is still unsure as to when he’ll be game-ready, but didn’t rule out the regular-season opener Oct. 26. Blazers coach Nate McMillan didn’t speculate on a return date either, focusing instead on how pleased he was to have Przybilla back in practice.

Specifics of the workout included four-on-four drills as well as some five on five. Przybilla admitted that some drills Sunday left him easily fatigued, and that he still has a ways to go before getting his wind back.
He’s also dealing with a certain degree of paranoia in terms of re-injuring his knee, often worrying that one wrong move could send him back to the sidelines.

“I don’t want someone landing on my leg,” he said.

Brandon Roy was one Blazer particularly delighted by Przybilla’s return to practice, but he also empathizes with his prudence.

“It hasn’t even been a year. I’m on the side of telling Joel to be a little cautious, and to pick his spots but don’t feel like he has to rush back. That’s not what he want,” said Roy, whose team continues its preseason schedule by hosting Utah at Memorial Coliseum tomorrow night. “We just him to come back and help the team.”

The desire to rush back might be a little more understandable than usual given the depletion of the Blazers’ big men. Greg Oden is still recovering from major knee surgery, a torn ACL recently sidelined Jeff Pendergraph for the season, and a groin injury hampered Marcus Camby early in the preseason.

Asked if Camby was 100 percent, McMillan responded: “These guys are never 100 percent. But he’s feeling better. There were no limitations as far as his practices.”

Sunday’s workout didn’t end with a chant or a mantra, but instead…a song. “Happy Birthday,” to be specific. Blazers tradition is to have the rookies perform the tune when players have birthdays, a ritual Roy enforced Sunday.

“They didn’t fight it,” Roy said.

Reach Matt Calkins at 360-735-4528 or

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