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HomeSportsThe Timberwolves' huge experiment, and Anthony Edwards' place inside it

The Timberwolves’ huge experiment, and Anthony Edwards’ place inside it

ANTHONY EDWARDS AND Rudy Gobert, the 2 gamers left within the FedEx Forum locker room, have simply struck up a dialog. It’s Nov. 11, and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ had simply suffered their sixth loss in seven video games, this night time’s approaching the street towards the Memphis Grizzlies, the staff that final season ended the Wolves’ second playoff run in 18 years.

The duo is busy discussing the nuances of a selected defensive protection, an alternate the 21-year-old star taking pictures guard initiated with the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, who new staff president Tim Connelly traded away three rotation gamers and a stockpile of draft picks to the Utah Jazz to amass.

It’s a easy chat about technique between new teammates but additionally an indication of progress. For these Timberwolves, any semblance of constructing chemistry — any indication of prioritizing the much less glamorous elements of the sport — offers a sliver of hope.

The 7-8 Timberwolves have spent the primary month of the season inconsistently navigating one of many league’s most scrutinized roster experiments: pairing two All-Star huge males — and watching the Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns partnership battle.

“Everybody’s in the paint,” Edwards mentioned after a Nov. 1 loss to the Phoenix Suns when requested why one of many league’s most explosive finishers did not have a dunk by means of the primary eight video games of the season. The early returns have not been “all peaches and cream,” to borrow one other phrase Edwards used then.

But for all of the deal with the Gobert-Towns match, the highlight has additionally incessantly shifted towards Edwards. The eventual face of the franchise has on a lot of events gone viral, showing disinterested — a stark distinction to Edwards’ infectious power on show final season — as he and the Timberwolves undergo the rising pains of constructing a contender.

“It’s the little things,” Edwards mentioned after an Oct. 21 loss to the Jazz. “We’ve got to figure it out. I’m going to figure it out.”


EDWARDS RAISED EYEBROWS after that loss to the Jazz by mentioning that, “The smaller we go, the better it is for me,” in response to a query about his manufacturing throughout a stretch when the Wolves went with an undersized lineup.

He then smiled when requested a follow-up query in regards to the match with Gobert, maybe realizing he’d slipped in an excessive amount of honesty. Days later, figuring out the dialog he’d spurred, he politely requested reporters to keep away from asking for his opinions on particular lineups.

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But Edwards is not alone in expressing considerations in regards to the Timberwolves’ spacing. So, too, has level guard D’Angelo Russell, whose scoring common (14.2 factors per sport) is the bottom since he was a teenage rookie.

“It’s our main thing on offense we’re trying to figure out,” Russell instructed ESPN after the loss in Memphis. “Obviously, you see us running into each other, trying to back door and might run into a guy. It’s just little things like that that aren’t in sync right now. It’s kind of hard to find rhythm or flow.”

The Wolves have been terrible offensively with Gobert on the ground (106.6 factors per 100 possessions, which might rank No. 28 within the league) and dangerous defensively when he is not (113.2). Their beginning lineup (Russell, Edwards, Towns, Gobert and ahead Jaden McDaniels) has a adverse internet score (-0.8 factors per 100 possessions) in 198 minutes collectively, a statistic that improved drastically with Wednesday’s 126-108 blowout of the overmatched Orlando Magic.

“We either figure it out or we don’t. Simple as that,” Russell mentioned. “We either figure it out, commit to it and be consistent doing it, or we don’t. And then we’ll be wherever we’re at next year.”

Minnesota coach Chris Finch mentioned he will get “great hope” from the chemistry he is seen develop between Towns and Gobert. He cited Towns’ assists to Gobert (25) as an particularly encouraging signal. But that is greater than Wolves’ beginning guards’ mixed assists to Gobert; and Towns’ scoring (21.9 factors per sport) is the bottom it has been in 5 seasons, though his assists (5.2) are at a profession greatest.

“He’s done such a good job of trying to make the changes and the sacrifices in his offensive game, but probably overcompensated a little bit,” Finch mentioned of Towns. “I think there’s growth for him just getting back to being a little bit more of his normal self.”

One opposing head coach instructed ESPN that he anticipates that whereas Finch, who is taken into account an particularly inventive offensive thoughts, will discover methods to make the two-bigs spacing work, he believes the Wolves’ largest issues are “interpersonal.”

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The coach cited Edwards sulking when his staff employed a switching protection, ensuing within the Wolves incessantly going to Towns in an try to assault a mismatch towards a guard. A clip went viral of Edwards standing with his hands on his hips for a complete possession whereas the Wolves ran a play that wasn’t referred to as for him throughout their Nov. 5 win over the Houston Rockets.

“I don’t have Twitter, so I don’t pay attention to it. I’m always engaged, man,” Edwards mentioned of that second. “I’m ready for it if it comes my way. I just want to play basketball.”

Edwards has acknowledged he wasn’t prepared to begin the season reporting to coaching camp “a little too heavy.” The Timberwolves listed him at 239 kilos on the official roster. (The NBA requires groups to checklist precise heights, however there’s leeway allowed with weights, and it is sometimes used for stars who may need packed on additional kilos.)

Edwards attributed the load acquire to “lifting a lot,” and has mentioned he shed the surplus kilos throughout camp, slimming all the way down to 230. Towns, nonetheless, determined to publicly name out Edwards for his food plan and conditioning early within the season.

“I know you all think it’s funny up here when he talks about Popeye’s and all that s—,” Towns instructed reporters after a late October loss, feedback that could possibly be perceived as an try at management or one more reason to marvel in regards to the Wolves’ chemistry.

“That doesn’t make me happy to hear. We’re high-level athletes.”

Edwards responded two days later with a number of exercise clips.


WHILE THE TIMBERWOLVES want extra offense from Edwards to grow to be an actual menace within the Western Conference — he is averaging 21.9 factors and three.9 assists per sport however has room to develop offensively, significantly as a decision-maker — he is additionally being pushed to satisfy what coaches and teammates contemplate immense defensive potential.

“Your path to being an All-Star or being All-NBA player in this league is being the high-level, two-way player that you can be,” Finch mentioned of Edwards. “A Paul George or a Kawhi [Leonard].”

Gobert, for his half, has challenged Edwards to grow to be the NBA’s greatest wing defender and sees no excuse for Edwards to not be in that dialog given his measurement, power and explosiveness. The lacking ingredient, Gobert believes, is focus.

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“He’s shown me that he can be an All-Defensive player if he puts his mind to it,” Gobert mentioned. “I’ve been on his ass a little bit about off-the-ball [defense]. He’s very competitive. He’s probably one of the best on-ball defenders I’ve seen when he takes it to heart and he’s guarding a really good player.

“But being nice defensively is about consistency. It’s doing it each minute.”

Edwards welcomes that challenge but said he’s “obtained to get in higher form” to be able to play hard all the time on both ends of the floor.

It’s not as if Edwards’ thoughts sometimes wandering, or effort lapsing, on the defensive finish makes him an exception within the Minnesota lineup.

Towns’ defensive shortcomings have been among the many main causes the Wolves wished to maneuver him to energy ahead and pair him with a dominant rim protector in Gobert. Russell has a popularity as a poor defender and was benched down the stretch in final week’s loss to the Grizzlies after his errors allowed a pair of alley-oops, the second of which induced Finch to throw his arms within the air earlier than signaling for a substitution.

Edwards put it extra succinctly after a loss to the New York Knicks final week: “We just play soft, man.” He mentioned that criticism included himself.

Yes, fixing the Gobert-Towns puzzle will increase the ground for a franchise looking for consecutive playoff berths for the primary time since 2003-04. But elevating Minnesota’s ceiling? That will come solely when Edwards emerges as a two-way celebrity.

“I still believe this is a good team,” Finch mentioned. “We just haven’t earned the right to be good.”

Gobert, in the meantime, reminds that the Wolves have to deal with the little issues and “the big things will come.”

“Most of the people watching the game won’t even see [them],” Gobert mentioned. “It’s the difference between us winning and losing. I’m talking about running back, spacing for teammates, talking about communication, physicality, boxout, stuff like that.

“Just the issues that successful groups do, however we have not been doing persistently but.”

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