Time for Anthony Edwards to Pro Up

Photo: Nick Wosika – USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Edwards has quickly become the most liked and appreciated player on the Minnesota Timberwolves roster. And in 2021-22, with the team surging into the Western Conference playoff race, Ant continues to get more respect around the league. In just his second season, Edwards has already established himself as a dude who opponents have to game plan against on a nightly basis.

But it’s his personality off the court and on the mic that has ingratiated him with Wolves fans so quickly. Anthony Edwards has one of the more infectious personalities of any high-profile athlete to come through this market. He’s an open book with the media and quick to prop up his teammates, who have all gotten closer since Ant’s arrival at Target Center. He’s just a fun, care-free guy who co-workers, media and fans are clearly drawn to.

But eventually, it’s time to grow PRO up.

This season, however, he’s struggled with injuries and the grind of an 82-game season. With that has come a lot of inconsistency in his play. Sometimes, especially early in the year, he looks like a superstar. A dual-threat on offense who can shoot the lights out from three or take you to the hole just because he wants to put you on a poster. Other times, and more often since his knee tendinopathy diagnosis, Edwards has disappeared.

But Anthony Edwards’ professional approach (or lack-there-of) and nonchalant mentality is part of what’s holding him back. He’s admitted to staying up too late, failing to show up early for treatment on his knee, eating shit food and, most recently, taking the court too late for warm-ups.

“Before the game starts, I’ve been coming out super late. Not getting a good warmup in,” Edwards said. He explained that instead of coming out, say, 20 minutes before tipoff, he has been coming out with about four minutes left on the clock. “I’m blaming myself for that,” he said.

Anthony Edwards (via Star Tribune)

I guess we should appreciate Anthony Edwards’ honesty. But how does this happen? Does he not have any routine built into his pregame process? ‘Ope, I almost forgot to take the court, guys. Someone wanna toss me a ball quick?’ Every great athlete from any sport will tell you that a major key to their success is having regular routine built into your life, especially on game, match or competition days. Routine breeds consistency and consistency is necessary to be great at anything.

Some of what Ant has openly admitted to during media appearances are pretty mind blowing when compiled. Yes, I too loved the time he held up his postgame press conference because he was ordering McDonald’s. Hilarious. And I, myself love a classic midnight McChicken. But those golden fries and delicious grease-filled sandwiches won’t provide a professional athlete, or anyone for that matter, the sustenance they need to maintain peak performance. Especially after a game. Can we get this dude a protein shake? Edwards admitted he needs to do better during the interview.

Observation, not judgement

I’m not judging Anthony Edwards for the shortcomings above. He’s a 20-year (237-days) old kid. At his age, this time of year, I was sneaking into and stumbling through the bars of Panama City Beach and watching Luke Bryan do beer bongs on the beach. Your brain isn’t wired to be a professional at that age.

But I wasn’t working as a head writer for the NY Times back then. Which would be the comparison of our career fields. Edwards is competing to be one of the best basketball players in the world. That’s a pretty cutthroat, ambitious position, worth a lot of money and a ton of clout. Other DUDES in the league, all of which have high-level talent too, are eating right, coming in early for treatment, staying late to get extra work in, sleeping on schedule and doing anything else they can to gain an extra edge.

“I’ve got to sleep a little earlier so I can get to the gym on time for treatment,” Edwards said. “But it’s all good. It’s to get me back to 100 percent and I’m all with it.”

Anthony Edwards (via Star Tribune)

If Ant isn’t eventually willing to make those same sacrifices then he’ll eventually just become another guy who had a lot of talent and potential entering the league. Not going those extra miles means an increased likelihood of injuries, faster aging and slower development. When you reach the level Anthony Edwards has, where you’re vying to be a top-25 player in the world, the difference in talent becomes so minimal that every small advantage and disadvantage become more pronounced, especially over multiple 82-games seasons.

Confident in growth

Anthony Edwards will pro up eventually. Maybe this offseason, maybe next year or the year after. It might happen all at once, it might come with small steps over time. But I’m confident he’ll get there. Hopefully I’m right because the Minnesota Timberwolves will not achieve NBA Finals dreams without him reaching his full potential.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan