Jerry Zgoda's Sunday Insider: Przybilla picks family

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA
  • Updated: March 11, 2012 - 4:42 PM

Joel Przybilla put his family first -- not championship odds -- when deciding which team to sign on with.

Wooed by Pat Riley's magnificent ring collection and Miami's balmy ocean breezes, Minnesota's own Joel Przybilla nonetheless decided at age 32, on knees surgically repaired six times, to continue his NBA career by going back home to Portland.

Whatever was he thinking?

"There were a lot of people asking me that," he said.

He decided to come back and play on those bad knees partly because his 6-year-old son still wants to see Daddy play, partly because after getting those knees back closer to 100 percent he still can.

So he turned down overtures from Miami and Chicago and signed two weeks ago for the league's veteran minimum with a Trail Blazers team chasing a playoff spot because both his sons were born in Portland and he still owns a home there.

"It wasn't easy, I'll give you that," said Przybilla, who grew up in Monticello and played one season with the Gophers before embarking upon a 12-year NBA career. "I kind of looked in my heart. I may not have used my head. I don't use my head too much, but I looked in my heart and I knew what was best for me and my family."

Przybilla sat home in Milwaukee and watched the lockout-delayed NBA season unfold for two months while he waited for opportunity to come calling. He talked multiple times by phone with Riley, the Heat's president who wanted to add a shot-blocking veteran to a loaded team poised to make a championship run. He also met with coach Erik Spoelstra once and flew to Miami to meet with Riley while the team was out of town.

And still the answer he sought in his heart and his head didn't come until he took his oldest of two boys to school one day and returned home to his wife with it suddenly present in both places.

"I just said to my wife, 'Let's go to Portland,' and I could tell I made the right decision from her face, the big smile," said Pryzbilla, who played seven seasons there before the Blazers traded him to Charlotte at last year's trade deadline. "I could tell that was the right move. The people who are closest to me, friends and family who know me best knew it was best for me. That's what matters to me. What other people say doesn't bother me."

"I missed it. It's something I'd done my whole life, being part of a team. And my oldest son really wanted me to play some more. He loves being around the guys. That's why I chose Portland over other places because it's home to us. It's a special place to not only play basketball, but raise a family, and that's what was most important to me."

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