‘WOLVES BACK’: Anthony Edwards introduces the Timberwolves back to the world

‘WOLVES BACK’: Anthony Edwards introduces the Timberwolves back to the world

Team USA players came inside the Kerry Sports basketball facility one by one, each sporting their preferred and comfortable gear from the blazing heat of the Philippine weather they were not so accustomed to. They were about to hold their first practices in Manila for the FIBA World Cup 2023, the sport’s world championship meet.

Anthony Edwards was one of the last ones to enter the gym along with fellow NBA no.1 overall pick Paolo Banchero. He had his Adidas Adilette comfort slides put on with black Team USA jogger pants and an Adidas triple-colored hoodie. Edwards was fixated on his phone, walking past whispering reporters onto the team’s huddle at center court, clearly being the center of attraction for the young Team USA squad.

“That’s who they call the Ant-Man.”

Once upon a time, Edwards’ name was held in a much lower regard. The 22-year-old is considered to be one of the best and brightest young players in the league but has yet to establish himself as one of the staples and premier superstars with an iconic and deep playoff performance that cements him in that tier.

Until these playoffs.

Edwards has separated himself from the pack of young superstars leading their teams and entered the upper echelon of basketball royalty in the NBA. With the league anticipating the ‘changing of the guard’ as current faces LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant eventually diminish their shining glories as the league’s best of the best, Edwards comes in as one of the hopefuls to take the mantle when that inevitable day comes.

“I’ve been saying that he (Edwards) is the face of the league but he hates it when I say it – but it’s true. The future’s so bright you gotta put the sunglasses on when you’re walking around him,” Karl-Anthony Towns said, in their post-game interview after their first-round series with the Phoenix Suns.

Edwards glanced briefly at Towns, who was beside him at the podium. He had that little smile on his face while bowing down his head as his teammate praised him in front of the listening reporters. He looked at Towns again, this time shaking his head in disbelief, but it had the element of confidence. There was obviously a focus on what Towns was talking about but with Edwards’ elite level-headedness through it all. 

“You’re a young superstar in the league and you have to face it,” the statement emphasized on Edwards as he’s trying to soak it all in.

Ever since Edwards has been adamant about not calling himself anything until he wins in the playoffs. Now that his Wolves beat the Suns to win the franchise’s first playoff series since 2004, Edwards certainly has all the right in the world to give himself even the tiniest bit of praise.

He thought for a good three seconds, glancing at the reporter and the horizon for a moment. He was just asked if he was now able to give himself some grace in that regard when people call him that ‘young superstar’ label. A small grin emerged onto his face, clearly oozing with confidence albeit a controlled one. He looked back with that smile on his face while nodding, he said:

“Nah, not yet a man. Not yet.”

Behind this usual brash, confident, and charismatic Edwards is a hungry side that never gets contented and satisfied until he achieves his ultimate goal: winning a championship. Maybe he’ll have the guts to call himself one when they reach the Finals and end up going all the way. But that remains to be seen.

He’s got the swagger, the personality, and the charisma to be marketable by the league. Edwards mentioned wanting to go kill everybody that’s in front of him, and boy, he did. 

Edwards swept the Suns featuring his childhood idol and favorite player of all time Kevin Durant, who he has been jawing back and forth at several times in the series. This was him going at his childhood hero, taking on the challenge and never backing down. However, the play of the series happened in Game 4 when Minnesota was trying to put the nail in the coffin for Phoenix. 

With 2:18 left on the clock in the 4th quarter, Edwards blew by Beal and rose through the air as high as he could. Durant made the right business decision by not going up together with a rampaging bull as he should For a brief moment, he looked like the second coming of a certain Michael Jordan – yet again – after he’s been labeled as such throughout the course of the season after each jaw-dropping spectacular play. Edwards threw down a ferocious poster slam dunk that might have literally blown the roof over the Footprint Center as the play signaled the beginning of the end for the Suns.

Durant and Edwards will play together in Team USA in August for the Paris Olympics, and these two for sure would go head to head making their practice sessions much more interesting. “It’s definitely a good feeling because he’s my favorite player of all time, and I can tell him that I was the one who sent him home. It’s gonna be a fun summer for sure,” Edwards said.

First game of the Western Conference Finals and up against the Nuggets, Edwards scored a playoff career-high 43 points. He dissected their entire defense, scoring in all types of ways imaginable for a superstar. Edwards hit threes, blown by some of the toughest defenders in the NBA Aaron Gordon, and hit fadeaway mid-range jumpers reminiscent of Jordan. More importantly, Edwards displayed the level of maturity a superstar has to make in the playoffs – playing off of your teammates and playmaking for the entire team. He has done it so far with relative ease and that’s why the Timberwolves have found their early success in this postseason.

He’s doing it against supposedly their biggest challenge – the defending champions – who sent them home a year ago. “Last year we didn’t have Jaden (McDaniels) and Naz (Reid) against them so it was quite frustrating. Now that we have both I think we can definitely do better,” Edwards said about their biggest thing in this rematch series vs Denver is being healthy.

Before the season started, Edwards was this up-and-coming 22-year-old star leading his nation at the World Championships for a chance at glory. Although the Americans ended up not medalling after losing to eventual world champions Germany in the semifinals and to neighboring Canada in the third-place game, Edwards was clearly the best player on the team filled with young American talent. He led Team USA in scoring, and at 22 years old, this was only the start of a big year ahead.

Edwards then was the clear-cut best player for the third-best team in the West, with Minnesota having a 56-26 record. Those 56 wins were the most since 2004 when they had 58 and went to the Western Conference Finals. They were led back then by legend Kevin Garnett but that was also their last time seeing the playoffs. 

20 years later, Edwards is now shouldering all the burden by taking this Wolves team back to relevance, basking in all the glory he’s worked so hard to attain. He’s one of the bonafide young rising superstars in the league, and he intends to take them all the way.

Edwards’ huge season and ascension to superstardom could be attributed back to something you see coming even from a mile away. And it all started in that summer lengthy yet productive summer in 2023.

While most players use their summers to recuperate, have a vacation somewhere, and spend time with families and loved ones, Edwards took a privileged yet opportunistic route: play with the National Team at the FIBA World Cup. Usually, NBA superstars all express their willingness to play with the National Team at the Olympics. For no definite reason, somehow the FIBA World Cup does not seem appealing to play for the older/senior superstar guys, so it’s usually the juniors/young guys who represent Team USA. Anthony Edwards took up that challenge and became the best player for the team and in turn, he’s reaping the benefits of it in the playoffs.

“I’ve put in work this summer. Big shoutout to the USA team, man. They got me ready for the season.”

That killer mentality that Edwards has is something that’s never seen often and has been with only a select few in the history of the game, particularly Jordan and Lakers great Kobe Bryant. Behind all that bold and tough personality, however, is a side of himself that genuinely enjoys playing with his teammates.

When asked about the prospect of having his Wolves’ teammates, the first thing out of his mouth was how he was excited to meet them while playing for their respective countries (Rudy Gobert for France, Karl-Anthony Towns for Dominican Republic, Kyle Anderson for China, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker for Canada). He looked forward to playing against them, citing how much fun he would have once it happened.

Despite his clear burgeoning superstardom, however,  Edwards still deflected every credit thrown towards him. When asked what he feels as one of the guys being billed as one of the next faces of the league, Edwards dismissed the idea faster than a Math teacher dispersing students after giving out a tough assignment due –  immediately answering without hesitation that he does not make anything of it. 

“I’m just gonna keep working, man. I make nothing of it, yeah. I just hope that I keep getting better.”

It was clear all along among all the people in the gym that fateful day: Edwards had the most aura out of them all. It was just oozing, something you can feel when you’re around certain people. It’s kind of intimidating, but only to a certain extent. You can just feel the energy brewing and that certain look when you come across one of the ones. The underlying factor before the season was Minnesota only having five national TV games all season long. With most of their games out of the eyes of the majority, Edwards assured one thing going into the season sternly and convincingly.

“We just gonna try to keep playing, man. We’re not really worried about the national TV games. As long as we win, we’ll be on TV when we make it into the playoffs. The world will know about us.”

As their playoff mantra suggests, the Timberwolves have been waiting for this moment since 2004. From the annals of the great Kevin Garnett’s era to ushering this new one paved by superstar-in-the-making, young Anthony Edwards, the Minnesota Timberwolves have arrived.

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