Anthony Edwards and Rudy Gobert, the two players left in the FedEx Forum locker room, has just started talking. It’s November 11, and the Minnesota Timberwolves have suffered their sixth loss in seven games, coming up on the road tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies, the team last season ending the Wolves’ second playoff run in 18 years. was.
The two are busy discussing the specifics of a specific defensive coverage, an exchange the 21-year-old star shooting guard started with a three-time defensive tackle that saw new team president Tim Connelly trade three rotation players and the stockpile. The number of draft picks for the Utah Jazz to make an acquisition.
It’s a simple chat about strategy between new teammates, but also a sign of progress. For these Timberwolves, any semblance of building chemistry — any sign of prioritizing the less glamorous aspects of the game — offers a glimmer of hope.
The 7-8 Timberwolves have spent the first month of the season inconsistently navigating one of the league’s most scrutinized roster experiments: pairing two All-Star big men — and the Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns partnership struggles Look
“Everyone is in the paint,” Edwards said after a Nov. 1 loss to the Phoenix Suns when asked why one of the league’s most explosive finishers hadn’t dunked in the first eight games of the season. The early returns were not “all peaches and cream”, to borrow another phrase Edwards used then.
But for all the attention on the Gobert-Towns fit, the spotlight has shifted too often toward Edwards. The final face of the franchise has gone viral on several occasions, appearing disinterested – a stark contrast to Edwards’ infectious energy last season – as he and the Timberwolves go through the growing pains of building a contender.
After the October 21 loss to the Jazz, Edwards said, “It’s the little things.” “We have to find out. I’m going to find out.”
Edwards raised eyebrows Noting after that loss to the Jazz, “the smaller we go, the better for me,” in response to a question about his production during a stretch when the Wolves ran with an undersized lineup Gone.
He smiled when asked a follow-up question about fitting in with Gobert, perhaps realizing he’d slipped in too much sincerity. A few days later, upon learning of the conversation, he politely asked reporters to refrain from asking for his opinion on specific lineups.
But Edwards isn’t the only one who has expressed concern about the distance between the Timberwolves. So, too, is point guard D’Angelo Russell, whose scoring average (14.2 points per game) is the lowest since he was a teen rookie.
After the loss in Memphis, Russell told ESPN, “That’s our main thing on offense that we’re trying to figure out.” “Obviously, you see us running into each other, trying to backdoor and run into a guy. It’s just little things that just aren’t in sync. It’s hard to find rhythm or flow. “
The Wolves have been terrible offensively with Gobert on the floor (106.6 points per 100 possessions, which would rank No. 28 in the league) and poor defensively when he’s not (113.2). Their starting lineup (Russell, Edwards, Towns, Gobert and forward Jaden McDaniels) together has a negative net rating (-0.8 points per 100 possessions) in 198 minutes, a stat that came after Wednesday’s 126-108 blowout to the Orlando Magic. There has been a lot of improvement. ,
Russell said, “We either figure it out or we don’t. Simple as that.” “We either figure it out, commit to it and keep doing it, or we don’t. And then we’re where we are next year.”
Minnesota coach Chris Finch said he had “high hopes” for the chemistry between Towns and Gobert developing. He cited Townes’ assist to Gobert (25) as a particularly encouraging sign. But it’s more than just the Wolves’ starting point guards providing Gobert combined assists; And Towns’ scoring (21.9 points per game) is the lowest in five seasons, although his assists (5.2) are at a career-best.
Finch said of Towns, “He’s done such a good job of trying to vary his offensive game and try to make sacrifices, but maybe a little bit of revenge.” “I think there’s growth for him just coming back to being a little bit more of his normal self.”
An opposing head coach told ESPN that he anticipates that while Finch, who is considered an especially creative offensive mind, will find ways to make the two-big vacancy work, he believes the Wolves’ biggest problem is ” Reciprocal”.
The coach cited Edwards’ frugality when his team employed a switching defense that resulted in the Wolves frequently going to Towns in an attempt to attack a mismatch against a guard. a clip of went viral Edwards standing with his hands on his hips to full right while the Wolves ran a play that was not called for them during their November 5 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Edwards said of the moment, “I don’t have Twitter, so I don’t pay attention to it. I’m always busy.” “If it comes my way, I’m up for it. I just want to play basketball.”
Edwards admitted that he was not ready to start the season, reporting to training camp “a little too heavy”. The Timberwolves listed him on the official roster at 239 pounds. (The NBA requires teams to list actual height, but a waiver with weight is allowed, and is typically used for stars who may have packed on extra pounds.)
Edwards attributed the weight gain to “lifting a lot” and said he shed extra pounds during camp, getting down to 230. However, Towns decided to publicly call Edwards out on his diet and conditioning at the start of the season.
“I know you all think it’s funny here when he talks about Popeye and all that—,” Towns told reporters after a loss in late OctoberComments that could be construed as an attempt at leadership or just another reason to wonder about the wolves’ chemistry.
“It doesn’t make me happy to hear that. We are high-level athletes.”
Edwards replied Two days later with some workout clips.
while Timberwolf The Western Conference needs more offense from Edwards to become a real threat – he averages 21.9 points and 3.9 assists per game, but has room to grow offensively, especially as a decision maker – he Coaches and teammates also consider the immense defensive ability he is being pushed to accomplish.
Finch said of Edwards, “Your path to being an All-Star or an All-NBA player in this league is to be a high-level, two-way player.” “A Paul George or the poet [Leonard],
Gobert, for his part, has challenged Edwards to become the NBA’s best wing defender and sees no excuse not to engage in that conversation given Edwards’ size, strength and explosiveness. The missing ingredient, Gobert believes, is focus.
Gobert said, “He’s shown me that he can be an all-around defensive player if he puts his mind to it.” “I’ve been a bit nervous about off-the-ball [defense], He is very competitive. He’s probably one of the best on-ball defenders I’ve seen when he takes it to heart and he’s a really good player guarding.
“But being great defensively is about consistency. It’s doing it every minute.”
Edwards welcomed that challenge but said he “had to get in better shape” so he could play hard on both ends of the floor all the time.
It’s not that Edwards’ mind wanders occasionally, or missed attempts on the defensive end make him an exception in the Minnesota lineup.
Towns’ defensive shortcomings were one of the primary reasons the Wolves wanted to pursue him as a power forward and pair him with a dominant rim protector in Gobert. Russell has a reputation as a poor defender and was held down down the stretch in last week’s loss to the Grizzlies after his mistakes allowed a pair of alley-oops, the second of which cost Finch a replacement. threw his hands in the air before signaling for ,
Edwards put it more succinctly after last week’s loss to the New York Knicks: “We just play soft, man.” He said that he himself is also involved in the criticism.
Yes, solving the Gobert-Townes puzzle will raise the floor for a franchise seeking consecutive playoff berths for the first time since 2003-04. But raising the roof of Minnesota? It will only come when Edwards emerges as a two-way superstar.
Finch said, “I still believe this is a good team.” “We just haven’t earned the right to be nice.”
Gobert, meanwhile, reminds that the Wolves need to focus on the little things and that “big things will come.”
“Most people watching the game won’t even be able to see [them],” Gobert said. “It’s the difference between us winning and losing. I’m talking about running back, creating distance for teammates, communication, physicality, boxouts, things like that.
“Just the things that winning teams do, but we’re not doing it consistently yet.”