NBA Abu Dhabi Games: Timberwolves coach says Anthony Edwards primed for big season

Edwards is undoubtedly the team’s most exciting prospect and expectations are sky-high when it comes to what he can deliver this upcoming season

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Anthony Edwards looks poised for a breakout 2023/24 NBA campaign and the Minnesota Timberwolves plan on taking full advantage of the explosive 22-year-old guard.

Despite his best efforts to dismiss the narrative of him emerging as the new face of the Minnesota franchise, Edwards is undoubtedly the team’s most exciting prospect and expectations are sky-high when it comes to what he can deliver this upcoming season.

Back in Abu Dhabi for the second time in as many months, Edwards raised his profile globally with a solid stint on Team USA at the FIBA World Cup over the summer, and has already experienced the atmosphere at Etihad Arena having played a couple of exhibition matches with his national side in August.

He returns to the UAE capital with an ambitious Wolves team that will take on the Dallas Mavericks in two pre-season games on Thursday and Saturday at Yas Island’s impressive venue.

With Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert both fit for training camp, and Edwards ready to take the leap, Minnesota have every reason to believe they can improve on their 42-40 record from last season, where they made the play-offs but lost in the first round to eventual champions Denver Nuggets.

“He certainly has that within him,” Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch said on Wednesday when asked about Edwards being primed for a big season.

“Every year he’s gotten a little bit better, a little stronger, a little more consistent. We’ve all seen what Anthony can do and when you want to be a great player you have to do it night in, night out and that’s his challenge now, he’s got to do it for 82 games.”

Edwards says he learned a lot from his time with USA Basketball, “really just seeing how guys work on their game, how other team’s best players work on their game, how serious they take their craft. I think that was the main thing, just seeing that. I like that”.

He recently revealed a story about how some harsh criticism pre-draft from Steve Kerr, the coach of Golden State Warriors and USA Basketball, helped Edwards overhaul his approach and improve his work ethic.

“That was probably the most influential thing I’ve ever heard in my life. As far as to myself, he told me I wasn't working hard enough and that kind of made my edge a lot stronger,” said Edwards.

"Ant-Man", as he is famously known, says talk of him being the face of the franchise “should stop” but his teammates certainly believe in the hype.

“I can say he’s going to be one of the best players in the league, if he’s not already one of the best players in the league,” said Timberwolves veteran Mike Conley.

“He’s got the mentality for it. Aside from the skillset, we know what he can do skillset wise but his mental [strength] is beyond a lot of guys I’ve ever met.

“So for a young guy – I don’t know if he’s 21, 22 years old – but he’s got a lot on his mind that he wants to accomplish and there’s nothing that’s too big. I don’t think anything is too big for him as far as goals or accomplishments, he thinks he’s going to get every one of them. So with that mentality he can be as good as he wants to be.”

Several other players on the Timberwolves roster spent a portion of their offseason on international duty at the World Cup, including Gobert and Towns.

Towns picked up a calf injury 21 games into the 2022/23 NBA season, missing most of it before returning in March. He’s in a far better place now, coming off a strong showing with the Dominican Republic and is excited to get back on court with his Minnesota crew.

“Being in the World Cup gave me a little head-start, getting some of the rust off, playing some meaningful games early on, that helps a lot,” said the 27-year-old centre.

“This week, it’s a great chance to grow as a unit, experience new cultures, new values, new people, and also a chance to get our season off to a right start.”

Updated: October 04, 2023, 1:14 PM