The small steps forward that can be a giant leap for Anthony Edwards

the jump by Anthony Edwards may not arrive in one leap in his third season in the nba. Maybe it’s more like a triple jump, with a series of smaller bounces eventually adding up to one giant leap forward.

What Edwards did at a much-needed moment timber wolves victory over the oklahoma city thunder Friday night began with a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers two days earlier. Pushed back into major playmaking duties with a knee injury D’Angelo RussellEdwards is quickly learning how to combat aggressive double teams, get his teammates to watch openly and control a game without a big scoring night.

In one of his most mature performances of the season, Edwards had 19 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and just two turnovers in a 112-110 road win. For a young player who is normally at his best when he’s riding a wave of emotion with big dunks and flashy 3-point shots, this was a game highlighted by discipline, poise and an understanding of how the game was going and what was The Timberwolves needed him.

The Wolves defeated Russell and jordan mclaughlin (calf), both of its bases. rudy goberto (ankle), Karl-Anthony Towns (calf) and taurus prince (shoulder) were also out, leaving Edwards to take on a lot more responsibility. But rather than force himself into the game or be tempted into a head-to-head scoring duel with the Thunder star, Shai Gilgeous-AlexanderEdwards took the ball in his hands and quarterbacked the Wolves offense with patience and precision.

“WWe’ve been trying to preach to Ant that it’s not about how much you score, it’s about how much you believe,” said coach Chris Finch.

The lessons are beginning to sink in. The loss to the Scissors Wednesday night could have simply been a throwaway game, the kind a troubled and injury-plagued team is expected to lose against one of the deepest teams in the Western Conference. But the Wolves got something out of that by putting Edwards in the leading ball-handling role and throwing him to the Clippers, a team loaded with wing defenders.

With so much Minnesota firepower out of the question, the Clippers sent the kitchen sink to Edwards, snaring him and double-teaming him as soon as he touched the ball. He forced him to make quick decisions, recognize holes in the defense and move the ball. He only had three assists and five turnovers in the game, but the Wolves undid many of the wide-eyed looks he created for them in a 99-88 loss.

Managing a team is the toughest job in the NBA, especially for a 21-year-old who has made his mark in this league as a scorer. In a season that has started so disappointingly, the crash courses Edwards is now receiving could be starting to take hold. Those tough times against the Clippers helped build the blocks Edwards stood on in Oklahoma City.

It’s amazing for him, and I think it’s a credit to him as a player when they bring in a second guy for you to get rid of the ball,” Gobert said after the Clippers’ loss. “It is a great compliment for a player to be recognized. When that happens, for us as a team, it’s a good thing.”

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The Thunder watched video of the Clippers defending Edwards and used many of the same principles. They threw pit bull defenseman Lu Dort at him, then assisted him early and often to try to get the ball out of his hands and into a group missing five of his top eight players.

To make matters worse, the Wolves had heavy legs on the final night of a 10-day, five-game road trip. Edwards started with Austin Rivers, naz reid, kyle anderson Y Jaden McDaniels, a different vibe than when Russell, Gobert and Towns surround him. But instead of firing away at OKC to make up for lost points due to injuries, Edwards tried to cheer his teammates up.

Edwards had three assists and five rebounds in the first quarter alone. Reid was the main beneficiary, scoring seven of his team’s 28 points in the opening period. Edwards made five shots himself, but he reduced his aggressiveness as the game progressed and players like Reid, Rivers and nathan knight it started rolling.

“If he can do that whenever we need him to, within what he’s capable of and what we need him to do, that’s great, really great for us,” Reid said. “I think it can, and we all think it can. That’s a special skill, to be able to lead the team like that, and it’s a big task.”

Edwards’ numbers this season are up across the board: points, rebounds, steals, assists, 3-point percentage and field goal percentage. But the tantalizing signs Edwards gave fans in his first two seasons, most notably in an impressive debut playoff series against memphis last spring, he set the bar even higher for Year 3.

Season three is often when superstar players really come into their own, with I dwell Y luka doncic being two of the most recent examples. Edwards hasn’t been as emphatic in the first two months of his third season, but there are good reasons for that. The Timberwolves’ offense doesn’t revolve around one person in the same way that the Mavericks they revolve around Luka or the Grizzlies orbit Morant. Edwards is surrounded by renowned teammates. The early part of this season has seen the team struggle to establish a flow and pecking order that is evident in so many other franchises that have a well-defined No. 1 star.

“Our system also relies on a lot of people trying to make plays, which is why we sometimes have big turnovers,” Finch said. “But yeah, we need more guys to make more plays for more people.”

Edwards has also shown at times that he still has a lot to learn, about playing on the second night of a back-to-back, or in the afternoon or against teams that don’t have the star opponent to get their attention.

With so many players injured right now, the Wolves have an opportunity to focus more on the ants. He’s showing that that doesn’t mean you have to take 25 shots to fill that role.

The gravitational pull that Edwards creates with his drives pulls defenders into his space, opening things up for teammates on the outside. Rivers had his best game as a Timberwolf, scoring 20 points, going 4-of-5 on 3-pointers and collecting five of Minnesota’s 16 steals. McDaniels scored 14 points, jaylen nowell he had 13 and Knight finished with 10 big points coming off the bench in his first extended period of the season.

Edwards is also showing that he understands when it’s time to go for his own shot or dunk. When Wolves stall or miss a few shots, Edwards can still put his head down and score with the best of them.

He was only 6 of 16 from the field against the Clippers on Wednesday, but his ability to finish at the rim while the entire defense collapsed on him was amazing.

The Timberwolves led Oklahoma City by 14 points in the third quarter, but a collapse in the final four minutes actually left them within three points early in the quarter. Edwards only scored four points in the fourth quarter, but blocked a late Gilgeous-Alexander shot and then made the play of the game when the Thunder seemed to have him caught in a trap just over the half court line.

Rather than panic, Edwards surveyed the ground as best he could with his jalen williams Y Aaron Wiggins in his face. He then tossed a perfect cross to Rivers, who nailed the 3.

“The essence of offense in the league is when they put two on you, you create a lead, no matter how you do it, pick-and-roll, trap, early gap help, all of that is a gravity he creates,” Finch said. . “I just try to continue to find the right play.”

In other words, don’t try to win the game by yourself. Edwards is beginning to understand how helpful his teammates can be when he involves them. That should help Wolves immensely when Russell, Gobert and Towns return. There they will find a more controlled young star waiting for his help.

“You have to keep trusting the right play, trust the open pass and keep trusting your teammates,” Finch said. “He’s doing a great job, he loves playing with those guys and his voice is getting louder and louder as well.”

(Top photo: Zach Beeker/Getty Images)

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