Oct. 21—Anthony Edwards spent all offseason working on his shot. Catch and shoot, off the bounce, everything. But the work didn’t stop there.
In the days leading up to Minnesota’s season opener, Edwards texted his trainer, Justin Holland, informing him late-night gym sessions were in order.
There was more work to do, more shots to get up and a breakout celebration to prepare for. The party was Wednesday at Target Center. Sixteen thousand Timberwolves fans were invited.
And it was a rager.
Edwards announced himself as the all-star candidate he plans to be and the Timberwolves looked like the playoff contender they spoke about being all training camp as they ignited Target Center for 2 1/2 hours Wednesday en route to a 124-106 blowout victory over Houston. Minnesota led by as many as 35.
Edwards’ extra work paid off. The second-year standout finished with 29 points — 24 in the first half — on six 3-pointers. If he hits perimeter shots like that, paired with his unstoppable ability to attack the bucket, opposing defenses may be rendered moot.
He was in a smooth rhythm Wednesday, hitting shots off the bounce, sizing up opponents before rising up over them. It all looked so easy, so natural, so Edwards.
“(Preseason) I would say I was just out there to be out there. But I’m here now. I put a lot of work in on my jumper. Hopefully it showed and I just want to continue to show progress in it,” Edwards said. “I don’t even think about it as feeling good. I think about it as that’s what I do, know what I’m saying? I put the work in, like a 9-to-5 every day in the summer. So it should fall.”
That’s exactly how Edwards operates. He entered this offseason with a changed mindset, aimed at locking in every single day with the intent to make himself a better all-around player.
The early returns are, predictably, positive.
Karl-Anthony Towns was clinical in a 30-point, 10-rebound showing on a hyper-efficient 11-for-15 shooting performance. D’Angelo Russell hit four threes in a span of 2 minutes, 8 seconds in the third quarter.
Target Center was alive for all of it.
What a revival for a building that sat in silence for so much of the 2020 season, and frankly many years prior. The energy and passion with which the Timberwolves played — from Edwards’ numerous thunderous dunks to Josh Okogie’s monstrous blocks — permeated the arena.
This is a fan base that’s begged for winning basketball for years but often has been denied. Not Wednesday.
“Man all I can say is the crowd brings a different type of energy into the gym,” said Edwards, who noted the atmosphere reminded him of his college days at Georgia. “Last year it was freezing in the gym. This year it’s hot. You hear everybody. Different atmosphere, man. Just great.”
In fairness, Wednesday’s opponent was Houston (0-1). The Rockets are expected to be one of the worst teams in the NBA. The same is true of New Orleans, which Minnesota will host Saturday and Monday.
But if the Wolves play with that type of fire and passion over 82 games, they will come out victorious far more times than not. There was a play in which Malik Beasley forced a loose ball and went down near the Timberwolves’ bench. A number of his teammates instantly rallied to him and cheered as they picked him up off the floor.
Edwards is the clear ignitor. It was his pregame introduction Wednesday that drew the loudest roars, his mini-runs that brought fans to their feet.
“He definitely feeds off the crowd. Brings energy and gives it back. He was super aggressive and we kind of knew he was going to be,” Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch said. “We just got on that run there and he’s really been shooting the ball well in a great rhythm. Hasn’t made it, and we said earlier beforehand he hadn’t made it much in the preseason but in practice he’s really been shooting the ball well. It’s good to see that carry over. That moment in the second quarter just kind of changed the whole game.”
With each triple Edwards splashed, his signature grin would grow just a bit bigger as he’d gaze up at the crowd or the Wolves bench. When he buried his fifth three of the first half with 22 seconds to play in the second quarter to put Minnesota (1-0) up 29, Edwards looked over at Houston’s bench and hollered at Rockets head coach Stephen Silas to call a timeout.
“I didn’t realize the time,” Edwards said with a smile. “I didn’t realize it was 20 seconds (left) and he couldn’t call a timeout.”
It didn’t matter. The crowd loved it, as did Edwards’ teammates. Towns said the highlight plays Edwards makes provide energy and boost morale. If Edwards hammers home a dunk, the entire team is hustling back on defense, looking to make a play to back the star guard up.
“Hell yeah,” Russell said, “it’s exciting.”
Everything about Wednesday’s performance was. That was Edwards in his element. The former No. 1 overall pick was like a caged lion last season while performing with no audience.
He was born to entertain, a showman who uses basketball as his primary vehicle to dazzle the masses.
Maybe, if Wednesday was any indication, Timberwolves games will again be an event worth attending in downtown Minneapolis.
Anthony Edwards throws a heck of a party.