Anthony Edwards of the Timberwolves can no longer run away from stardom

PHOENIX — Fresh off, arguably, the biggest performance of his young career, Anthony Edwards sat facing the world in a white undershirt and a fitted all-black Atlanta Braves cap that sat loose, hovering just above his frizzy hairline – making it look more like an extra in Outkast’s “Player’s Ball” video than the future face of the NBA.

Edwards is what he is. Foolish. Lovely. Intelligent. Village. He wears it all, loudly and proudly. He too is a competitor. A talker. He wears all these things just as loudly, just as proudly.

Add all this up and you have a star. Add all of those things plus a 40-point performance in a 122-116 playoff win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night, and you start to become a superstar.

Yet Edwards, for one reason or another, is afraid to go. As honest, cheeky and confident as he is and can be, there is a shyness 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 “won the playoffs.”

A year later, I did. Edwards not only won the playoffs, but was also the alpha of a franchise that included the likes of Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, his favorite player of all time. Edwards took his organization to heights he hadn’t seen in 20 years in the second round of the NBA playoffs. He did it with mind-boggling dunks. He did it with a sweet shot. He did it with a gnawed defense. He did it with leadership. He did it with “Suck It!” of WWE. extracurricular. He did it by turning an ear to the player he had admired since he was 5 years old.

These are the things stars do. This is what celebrity looks like.

“No, not yet, man,” Edwards said Sunday after reaching the benchmark he set for himself a year ago. “Not yet.”

Edwards, unbeknownst to him, has lost the privilege of deciding what is and isn’t in this league.

Kevin Durant congratulates Anthony Edwards after Minnesota swept Phoenix in the first round of the NBA playoffs. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

When you get 40 points in a decisive victory, even on the road, you are a star. When you’ve played 79 regular season games and been the best player on a team that was one game away from achieving the highest record in your conference, you’re a star. When you are one of 12 players, at age 22, chosen to represent your country at the Olympics, you are a star. When you make everyone laugh every time you’re in front of a microphone, order a McDonald’s from Uber Eats right 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, sitting next to Edwards as his reserved team took center stage when talking about his status in the NBA. “He hates it when I say it, but it’s true. Like I said, “The future is so bright, I have to wear sunglasses.” “

Regular players don’t decide to dominate when they have the chance to definitively defeat their opponent. They don’t have that ability. The Stars shoot 11 of 15 from the floor for 31 second-half points when their team trails at halftime like Edwards did on Sunday. The Stars mustered their last bit of energy late in the fourth quarter to launch a “Night, night!” dunk – as he did with just over two minutes to play when he crossed Bradley Beal on the wing, took a collected dribble, launched from outside the penalty area and forced his childhood hero off the court as he punished the basket like if he had hit his sister.

Stars butt heads with their other teammate amidst all the chaos when they do something wrong, as Edwards did when Towns committed another unnecessary foul with the game on the line.

Edwards can no longer escape. No matter how hard you try. If he doesn’t want to be a star, then stop playing like one.

“He rises to the occasion,” Wolves forward Kyle Anderson said Atletico.

Stars also make their teammates better. This is the purpose of having a star. A person’s gravity makes the existence of others more meaningful.

Edwards set aside the Suns defense as a playmaker. The 40 points will make headlines, but he also had six assists with just two turnovers in 41 minutes of play. He should have had more than 10 assists, but the Wolves failed to get a bucket in the first 24 minutes of the game.

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

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

But yes, Edwards is not a star.

“He’s a good person,” said Minnesota assistant coach Micah Nori, who replaced coach Chris Finch after a courtside confrontation in the fourth quarter left him with a serious leg injury. “And what I mean is, they trust him. He has a bit of self-deprecation. You’ve seen all of his interviews. He is the first to congratulate and pass on all the glory to his teammates. Everyone loves it.

“When he plays, he makes the right play and they know that he cares not only about himself but also about 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 for fear of settling, then he’ll never leave. His mentality is correct. His intentions are good. But it’s impossible for anyone with two eyes and a bit of common sense not to see a star when they look at Edwards.

From this point on, there’s no point in even asking Edwards. He spoke, with his game and his personality. She never needs to say it out loud. We will all continue to say it for him.

“He’s my favorite player to watch,” Durant said of his star student after Sunday’s game. “He has grown a lot since he arrived in the league. At 22 years old, his love for the game shines so brightly. That’s one of the reasons I like him more because he loves basketball and he’s grateful to be in this position.

“He will be someone I follow for the rest of his career.”

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(Top photo: Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)