Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards can’t run from stardom anymore – Generic English

Associated media – Associated media

PHOENIX — Fresh off, arguably, the most important performance of his young career, Anthony Edwards sat in front of the world with a white tank top and an all-black Atlanta Braves fitted cap that sat loose, hovering just above his crisp hairline — making him look more like an extra in Outkast’s “Player’s Ball” video than the future face of the NBA.

Edwards is who he is. Silly. Lovable. Intelligent. Country. He wears it all, loudly and proudly. He’s also a competitor. A trash-talker. He wears all of those things just as loud, just as proud.

You add all of that up and you have a star. You add all of those things up plus a 40-point performance in a playoff-sweeping 122-116 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night, and you start to enter superstardom.

Yet, Edwards, for one reason or another, is afraid to go there. For as honest, brash and confident as he is and can be, there lives a bashfulness inside the 22-year-old when it comes to talking about his stature within the sport’s most prestigious club.

A year ago, before a first-round loss to the eventual-champion Denver Nuggets, Edwards said he couldn’t consider himself a young star until he “wins in the playoffs.”

A year later, he did it. Edwards not only won in the playoffs, but he was the alpha in a series that featured the likes of Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, his all-time favorite player. Edwards led his organization to heights it hadn’t seen in 20 years, the second round of the NBA playoffs. He did it with rim-twisting dunks. He did it with a sweet shooting stroke. He did it with gnaw-your-arm-off defense. He did it with leadership. He did it with WWE “Suck It!” extracurriculars. He did it while giving an earful to the player he has looked up to since he was 5.

These are the things that make stars. This is what stardom looks like.

“Nah, not yet, man,” Edwards said Sunday after reaching the benchmark he placed on himself a year ago. “Not yet.”

Edwards, unbeknownst to him, lost the privilege to decide what he is and isn’t in this league.

When you score 40 points in a series-clinching victory — on the road at that — you’re a star. When you played 79 regular-season games and were the best player for a team that was one game short of having the top record in your conference, you’re a star. When you’re one of 12 players, at the age of 22, picked to represent your country in the Olympics, you’re a star. When you make everyone laugh every time you’re in front of a microphone, order McDonald’s off Uber Eats immediately after a game, like he did in Detroit last season, you’re a star.

“He’s the face of the league,” said teammate Karl-Anthony Towns, who sat next to Edwards as his reserved side took center stage when talking about his status in the NBA. “He hates when I say it, but it’s true. Like I said, ‘Future so bright, got to put the sunglasses on.’ ”

Regular players don’t decide to dominate when they have a chance to end their opponent for good.  They don’t have that ability. Stars shoot 11 of 15 from the floor for 31 points in the second half when their team is trailing at halftime like Edwards did on Sunday. Stars muster up their last bit of energy late in the fourth quarter to throw down a “Night, night!” dunk — like he did with just over two minutes to play when he crossed up Bradley Beal on the wing, took a gather dribble, launched from outside of the paint and forced his childhood hero out of the way as he punished the rim like it hit his sister.

Stars get on their other star teammate amid all the chaos when they do something wrong like Edwards did when Towns committed another unnecessary foul with the game in the balance.

Edwards can’t run from it anymore. No matter how hard he tries. If he doesn’t want to be a star, then stop playing like one.

“He rises to the occasion,” Wolves forward Kyle Anderson told The Athletic.

Stars also make their teammates better. That’s the point of having a star. The gravity of one person makes the existence of others more meaningful.

Edwards picked apart the Suns’ defense as a playmaker. The 40 points will make the headlines, but he also had six assists with only two turnovers in 41 minutes of play. He should have had 10-plus assists, but the Wolves couldn’t buy a bucket in the game’s first 24 minutes.

There were signs throughout the season, but it was this series where Edwards blossomed as a creator for others. There were times early on in his career when it felt like he passed because he had to. There was nowhere else for him to go.

As the season went on, and this playoff series played out, Edwards was welcoming blitzes so that he could create advantages to make the pass to an open man, so that he could get his teammates involved in the flow of the game, so that this Timberwolves team could potentially do something only one team before has accomplished in the franchise’s 35-year history.

But, yeah, Edwards is not a star.

“He is a good person,” said Minnesota assistant coach Micah Nori, who filled in for coach Chris Finch after a collision on the sideline in the fourth quarter left him with a serious leg injury. “And what I mean by that is, they trust him. He’s got some self-humor. You’ve seen all of his interviews. He’s the first one to congratulate and move all of his glory over to his teammates. They all love him.

“When he plays, makes the right play, and they know he cares, not only about himself but the team, he’s done a good job of stepping up in that regard.”

Edwards can keep running from the label all he wants, but if he doesn’t want to embrace it out of fear of being content, then it will never go away. His mindset is correct. His intentions are good. But it’s impossible for anyone with two eyes and a pinch of sense not to see a star when they look at Edwards.

From this point on, there’s no point in even asking Edwards about it. He has spoken — with his play and his personality. He never needs to say it out loud. We’ll all keep saying it for him.

“He’s my favorite player to watch,” Durant said of his star pupil after Sunday’s game. “He’s just grown so much since coming in the league. At 22, his love for the game shines so bright. That’s one of the reasons why I like him the most because he just loves basketball and is grateful to be in this position.

“He’s going to be someone I follow for the rest of his career.

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