This could be a big week for former BYU basketball star Andy Toolson. Wednesday night, he left at halftime to attend the birth of his first child. While he was gone, starting forward Blue Edwards broke his nose, opening the way for Toolson to possibly get his first start as an NBA player.
Toolson's wife, Holly, gave birth to a girl Thursday in a Salt Lake area hospital. It was the second Jazz child born in a week. Sunday, Thurl Bailey's wife, Shari, had a boy.As for Toolson's chances of starting Friday night against Minnesota (7:30 tipoff), that is only one of several possibilities. Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan said at Thursday's team practice that he is leaning toward bringing Bailey off the bench and starting either Toolson or fellow-rookie Walter Palmer.
Edwards broke his nose Wednesday night against Houston. Team publicists said he could be out 10-12 days. Doctors will wait until the swelling goes down before deciding on a surgery date, but it is expected to take place this weekend or Monday.
In his absence, the Jazz have several options for a replacement in the starting lineup:
- Bailey. The veteran forward is already essentially a starter, but has been coming off the bench to give them a boost. He is the logical choice to start, but Sloan says that may not mean Bailey gets the call.
"Thurl's going to end up playing a lot of minutes and I don't know just yet what we'll do," said Sloan. "Sometimes you can get by better with a guy who hasn't played so much, playing earlier in the game, than you can later."
In other words, start with the rookie and when the game warms up, go with experience.
- Toolson. Though most often considered a guard in the Jazz offense, Toolson played forward in college. He knows the offense well for a rookie, is a threat as a shooter, and doesn't usually make mistakes. "I'm leaning toward Andy, but I'm not going to say what we'll do," said Sloan.
A logical reason to start Toolson would be that the coaching staff can see him under game conditions. That would help them decide whether they want to keep Toolson once Eric Johnson comes off the injured list.
- Palmer. The 7-1 rookie forward could start, but with 6-foot-6 Tyrone Corbin playing against the Jazz Friday night, they may decide to go with more mobility against the Timberwolves. Palmer, the Jazz's only draft choice this year, played center in college but is being listed as a small forward on the roster. This would be a good time for Palmer to begin producing dividends on his guaranteed contract.
Palmer has seven rebounds in 22 minutes playing time.
The Jazz could also go with a big front line that includes Mike Brown, Mark Eaton and Karl Malone, or use three guards, with John Stockton, Jeff Malone and Toolson and just two big men. However, Brown has mostly been used as a center this year, coming off the bench.
Another option is placing Edwards on the injured list and/or bringing in a new player on a 10-day contract. The Jazz already have two players on the injured list and league rules allow three. The Jazz could also activate guard Eric Johnson. However, indications are that Johnson isn't ready to be activated yet.
Whatever the case, the Jazz now have to face life for a few days without Black-and-Blue Edwards. He was hit in the face several times during the preseason, but never broke any bones. This time it did some damage. "Boy, he's had his face beat up this year," said one Jazz official.
Although there are estimates, exactly how long he'll be out remains uncertain. "I don't know," said Sloan with a half-smile. "All noses are different. If it was mine, I'd probably be out two years."
If placed on the injured list, Edwards will be required to miss a minimum five games.
However long he's out, Edwards will be missed. After coming off the bench the first six games and shooting poorly, he was inserted into the starting lineup for the last seven outings. He averaged just five points a game as a reserve, 11 as a starter.
Edwards had 12 points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal against Dallas last Sunday. He added 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals Wednesday against Houston.
"I like starting better," said Edwards before the Wednesday game. "You're able to get in and establish yourself better than off the bench. When you start, you know, 'OK, when I get to the gym, I'm gonna start.' When you come off the bench, it's kind of a guessing game."
Now the guessing is all about how long Edwards will be gone, and how much the Jazz will miss him.
NOTES: John Stockton has moved into 18th place, ahead of Norm Van Lier, on the alltime NBA assist chart . . . Karl Malone has led the Jazz in rebounding in 11 of their first 13 games . . . Darrell Griffith needs just two steals to reach 900 for a career . . . .