Anthony Edwards said he felt like “Black Jesus”.
The Timberwolves sophomore was right in Portland on Tuesday. He was Minnesota’s savior in that win, lifting a team that had done a lot to lose to victory with his performance. Forty points, nine rebounds, three steals and three blocks. Edwards brought staging, energy and emotion.
He cited a moment in the game when he looked at the Portland defenseman in front of him and saw “fear in his eyes.”
“That’s all she wrote,” Edwards said.
It was then that he realized that he would take over the game. Not thoughtbut knew.
He scored 14 points in the last quarter alone, reaching the basket and scoring a couple of tricky triples. It was another “moment” for Edwards – perhaps one that tops a growing list in his young career. These moments always seem to come at just the right time. Last season, he scored 40 points in a road win over Phoenix, who reached the NBA Finals. And 33 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists in a big win over Miami in mid-November when Carl-Anthony Towns fought a foul.
And then there was Tuesday, when the Timberwolves (24-23), desperate to finally return over .500, needed Edwards’ heroism to take down a hot Portland team in difficult road conditions.
“He has that mentality,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “He believes he can win any battle, any game, any fight. This season we have seen several such performances. Not only did he have 40, but when we needed it the most, he made big shots.”
Because he wants this moment. He wants those big shots. He wants to evaluate a defender and drill a shot into someone’s face as hard as he wants to block an opponent. During all the post-match feedback from those around him about his infraction, Edwards made sure to point out that he also kept his friend and Portland star quarterback CJ McCollum in line. The Trail Blazers guard only made 5 of 15 shots from the field.
“Of course the first team will be defending tonight,” Edwards said. “He’s a really good player, but I feel like I’m a really good defender, so there you go.”
When D’Angelo Russell discussed Edwards’ efforts, he said he wanted Edwards to score 50 or even 60 points. He said that if the game had gone into overtime, Edwards might have reached those plateaus.
“Of course,” Edwards replied.
Edwards sincerely believed this. Just like he thinks he can be a NBA first team quarterback. He never limits his potential or lowers his expectations. Edwards wants to be a star this season and take the Timberwolves to the playoffs. And next year the bar will be raised even higher.
“I’m definitely going to be MVP next year,” Edwards said.
This may seem ridiculous to you. After all, Edwards will be 21 next season and not yet talked about in the gaming elite. But every seemingly wild claim he makes is based on his personal truth. There is nothing he thinks he can’t do.
“The great thing about him is that he is loved by his teammates and that is sincere. It’s not a cockiness that he just throws out to hide some insecurities,” Finch said Wednesday on The Jim Rome Show. “He really believes he can do whatever he says.”
And when he fails, Finch noted, Edwards recognizes that he has room to grow.
“But it won’t break his stride, it won’t undermine his self-confidence. He knows he can be great,” Finch said. “He is always the same every day. He has a great smile on his face. He comes to work the same way, in the same mood. You can train him hard. He likes it, he reacts well to it. These are things that belie the maturity that most kid players don’t have in their 20s as they try to find their way into the NBA.
“He knows who he is as a person, and when he starts to understand who he is as a player, it will even take him further. He knows what he can do, but he’s still trying to learn and figure it all out.”
Perhaps this knowledge and comfort in who he is spurs his faith in himself. That belief is starting to seep into his teammates and has played a key role in helping a long-downtrodden team develop into a competent playoff contender.
While the Timberwolves don’t always get the elite Anthony Edwards every night, there seems to be a growing sense that as long as they have Edwards, they have a chance every night. With Tuesday’s performance, he proved his ability to lead his team to victory under difficult circumstances.
Minnesota’s next three games are Thursday at Golden State, Friday at Phoenix, and Sunday at home against Utah. It’s a killer streak of contenders for the Western Conference title. However, every time the Timberwolves take the floor, you can bet that Edwards will consider himself the best player on the court and the Minnesota will win.
There is power in this perspective. When you believe that anything is possible, in the end it is.
“He has that ‘factor’ where he’s not afraid of the moment,” Finch said in an interview with KFXN 100.3 on Wednesday. “Hopefully it will happen to us this year, but it will be interesting to see him in the playoffs.”