He smiles his shy smile and shrugs. What to do when you're Blue? Living up to being Blue Edwards isn't easy. The man in charge of the next generation of big-draw Jazz players is only in his second season. But there are already so many expectations, so many plans - many of them far more advanced than his experience.
Still, Edwards professes he doesn't feel pressure. "No, there's no pressure on me," he says, sounding as though he has answered the question many times before. "Because I'm capable. If I wasn't capable, then it would be a cause to feel pressure."Pressure or not, there are plenty of plans being made for him. Edwards came out of East Carolina as a relative unknown. But soon enough, people began to talk. Blue, who scored 38 points in a college game. Blue, who led his college team in scoring, rebounding, steals, assists, blocked shots, minutes played, three-point percentage and was (awwww!) second in assists. Blue, who high jumped 6-foot-6 in high school. Blue, who dunked a shot so violently in college he shattered the backboard attached to a collapsible rim. Blue, with the mini-Mailman body and the springs like a young Darrell Griffith. Blue, who started the first 49 games of his rookie season and played in 82.
Edwards himself is partly to blame for the expectations; he's shown them a glimpse. "People have probably seen flashes of what I can do," he says. "But I'm not in the offense enough to be as productive as I can be. So hopefully they (fans) will see that I do a lot of hustle things and see a guy who goes out and plays hard. I've just got to get better and better."
Getting better hasn't been an easy proposition for Edwards this year. Seven games into the season he broke into the starting lineup, a move that helped his confidence greatly. But two weeks later he broke his nose, missing four games and playing for a couple of weeks with a distracting clear plastic mask to protect the injury.
After returning, Edwards played quietly for several weeks. He finally began to get a good rhythm when he went down with a severely sprained ankle on Feb. 27. He subsequently missed the next 16 games. All totaled, Edwards, who says he never missed a college or prep game due to injury, has missed 20 games this year.
His injury problems aren't over. Saturday night in Houston he caught an elbow over his left eye. Though he returned to the game, the cut required three stitches.
The inclination is to chalk all of Edwards' injury problems to the old "sophomore jinx."
"A lot of people have asked me about the sophomore jinx," says Edwards. "I said I don't play too much attention." Then he smiles his shy smile again and says, "I guess my sophomore jinx has come in the form of injuries. But I believe in positive things coming out of even those situations."
On some nights, Edwards more than lives up to his billing. There was the 25-point night on Feb. 5 at Minnesota and an eight-rebound night last Nov. 19 at Milwaukee. Other times he can be something short of electric Blue. In his last outing Edwards was only 2-for-8 shooting and failed to get a rebound.
In 54 games he has averaged nine points and three rebounds a game.
Edwards says the Jazz coaching staff has been patient. "Nobody has said I have to get a lot of rebounds or a lot of points every night out," he says. "I've just got to fit in and contribute wherever I can."
That contribution could come in a variety of ways. The Jazz continue to entertain ideas of Edwards eventually playing two-guard, as well as forward. Should Jeff Malone - who becomes a restricted free agent this summer - decide to leave, it may become even more necessary that Edwards play guard.
As he nears the close of his second pro season, Edwards remains low key about his future. But he makes it clear that he, as well as everyone else, has plans for Blue. "I've just got to improve," he says. "Maybe it's shooting or passing or adding one more move. You've got to add something every year."
Everything, that is, except pressure.