“We just got to be willing to share the ball. That’s it—just that simple. Just sharing the ball … We think we the only ones on the team. We got to be willing to pass the ball. There’s no ‘I’ in team. We can’t beat five people with three people. You beat five people with five people. So, we got to be willing to play with our teammates, trust our teammates, and, like I said, share the ball.”
The sophomore guard who’s been more well-known for freak athleticism and jovial press conferences than pointed leadership to this point in his career expounded further.
“[During] preseason, everyone sharing the ball, everybody happy. So, when the season start, everything change. ‘I,’ ‘I,’ ‘I.’ ‘I wanna shoot this, ‘I wanna shoot that.’ Like [head coach Chris Finch] said during practice the other day, [Josh Okogie] playing his balls off on defense, don’t get no shots on offense. [Jaden McDaniels] plays his balls off and don’t get no shots. [Malik Beasley] run the floor hard and don’t get no shots. Me, [Karl-Anthony Towns], and [D’Angelo Russell] need to do a better job of getting them the ball.”
Monday’s post-game press conference served as a platform for Edwards to open a vein of frustration and call for greater accountability from the Wolves Big Three, a veteran and respectable move from a guard who has been admittedly quiet to this point. But, according to Edwards himself, that’s all about to change.
Ant: I’m gonna start speaking up sooner rather than later. We’ll get it in track— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) October 26, 2021
Edwards’ comments spoke to a trend that emerged during the Wolves’ two games against the Pelicans: The offense — the one area most pundits agreed wouldn’t be a problem for the team — has been stilted.
Such wasn’t the case when Minnesota blitzed the Houston Rockets on opening night nor during the preseason when the games didn’t matter, and the athletes played looser. A significant reason has been the ongoing struggles of Russell.
Save for a barrage of points late against Houston, the Wolves’ starting point guard has been abysmal, owning an effective field goal percentage of 39.8% to along with an average of four turnovers per game. He has appeared mentally absent for prolonged portions of all three games and frequently slows down the team’s attack with copious dribbles while attempting to slither to the nail or elbow.
However, Russell’s play — or lack thereof — is far from the only issue with the Wolves offense. The 3-man lineup of Russell-Edwards-KAT owns an offensive rating of 93.2, which is over seven points lower than the team’s 100.6 overall rating, which ranks 23rd in the NBA. To his credit, Towns also copped to being a ball-stopper and playing selfishly, particularly against the Pelicans.
“I think it ends up with me utilizing more of my passing and putting them in better spots,” Towns told Canis Hoopus when asked how he can put his teammates in better positions to succeed. “Also understanding that every time I drive, I don’t have to make a scoring play. Sometimes it’s just an easy kick out to get the rotation going.”
“I felt at one point in the game I felt a good flow of doing that. I thought we did a really good job of finding me in the post, the double team came, and we got it to the wing, wing to the middle, middle to the other wing, and it just caused a lot of havoc for them because there was a lot of [rotations]. They were just in a scram, so it put us in a great spot. They were at a disadvantage, we had the advantage, and I thought we had a lot of success doing that. Maybe finding more of those in flow. Like I said, sometimes me getting in the paint does have to be all about muscle and trying to make a score. Maybe get to the paint just to draw the defense in, get them an easy one from the wing, from the corner, get them going.”
(Russell did not speak to the media following the game.)
It’s unlikely that the Wolves’ offensive transgressions will persist for the entire season. However, the two games against the Pelicans have served as acidic examples for naysayers of the Russell-Edwards-Towns trio. But that’s why Edwards and Towns post-game comments were so important and so necessary.
“I told Beas, us three — me, KAT, and DLo — we do a bad job of not getting y’all the ball. Like I said, we’re gonna get our shots. In order for them to keep fighting for us, we got to get them the ball, we got to make them feel involved, and we just got to trust them, man,” Edwards told Canis Hoopus. “Like, if KAT in the post, we know they coming, when he goes to the rim, we know they coming. We got to be willing to kick it to JO, kick it to Beas, kick it to Jaden. If I’m going downhill, I got to be willing to kick it to Jaden, kick it to Beas, kick it to JO. DLo come off a screen, they heavy at the nail, we got to be willing to kick it to JO. JO guard the best fucking player every night. 20 minutes, 25 minutes, no matter how many minutes he play, he guard them every night and give us his all … We got to help them. We got to help the other guys for sure.”
Edwards and Towns talked the talk. Now we wait to see if they walk the walk.